Why Health Literacy for Children is Important

Michael Dow , author of the Nurse Florence Children’s book series says that  poor, health literacy, is a real thing. And so, nurse Florence, children’s book series addresses these issues in many different ways. Not only does the general science help just bring basic education, like how do we smell things? How do we hear things? How do we see things? Basic things like, how does the brain work or how our nervous system works. But we’ve also started exploring disease topics such as, nurse Florence, what is kidney disease, nurse Florence, what is a heart attack?

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Bio

Michael Stephen Dow graduated nursing school in August 2020. Michael now works as a Registered Nurse at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Michael is the Founder and Manager of Dow Creative Enterprises, LLC. His books have garnered the Silver Nautilus Book award in 2020 (Nurse Florence, Help I’m Bleeding) and an Award-Winning Finalist in the Religion category for the 2021 International Book Awards (A Prayer to Our Father in the Heavens: Possibly the Greatest Jewish Prayer of All Time). Michael believes we will need the best of science and religion to successfully navigate ourselves, our civilization, through the future obstacles we will face.

Myrna: Why did you become a children’s book author?

Michael: My mom always said I would be a good author of children’s books. I wrote my first book, then I got my kids to read it, to be like a reviewer of the book. And in that first book, I thought it was really good. So, I submitted it for some Book Awards, and we got the silver Nautilus Book Award and their slogan was “Better Books For a Better World.” So that really inspired me to just keep writing. So, I did and we’ve gotten three other awards for two other books so far, and we’re counting. We hope to get many awards every year, I recruited a team of illustrators, and now we’ve published over 25 books.

My ulterior motive was to educate my own children. They are in the review process and they get editor money, especially when they find that one misspelled word.

Myrna:  How old are your kids?

Michael: Well, I have a 15-year-old autistic child so, he’s not really reading books and then I have a 12-year-old and a nine-year-old.

Nurse Florence tell me things about the heart
Nurse Florence tell me things about the heart
Nurse Florence Children’s books teaches health literacy to kids as young as 4 years old

Myrna: What age range are you targeting with these books?

Michael: I think it’s between ages 7 and 12. But, but we’ve already got some feedback that some parents have read the book to like four- and five-year-old and it because that there’s pictures on every other page. One side is the picture, either a science drawing or maybe a drawing of the kids interacting with the nurse, and then the tech so the four- or five-year old’s are even enjoying listening to their parents read. And again, it is written at a pretty basic level. But we do introduce some medical words to kids in every book.

Myrna: Yeah. I absolutely love it. I love biology, I didn’t take biology until I was in high school. But I absolutely love finding out how the body works and I can just imagine, four- or five-year old’s, learning, about how the body works then have all these questions for their parents.  That is the way kids are, they have a very curious mind and they have all these questions. So that’s amazing. It’s great to build their curiosity and to let them know, how the body works. And I would imagine that if any of this information sticks, when they do get the biology, they’ll be ahead right?

Michael: That is my job. I think is to help all of these kids get a little bit ahead so that when they get to the high school class, they’re hitting the ground running.

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Does Nurse Florence cover mental health topics

Myrna: I know that you are a registered nurse now and your current job is at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. So, do you have any books on, mental health? How are you using the data that you’re collecting from being a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, in your books?

Michael: There are a couple of the books that I’ve incorporated some things about mental health.  One of these books is called “How Do our Fingernails Grow? In the book Jean is very nervous about a quiz. So, she bit her fingers too far back and has to go see the nurse to get a clip. And the nurse asked her why would you pull your fingernail like that? And she says, well, because I was very nervous with that quiz. I wanted to do really good. And so then the nurse teaches her a couple of coping skills like deep breathing, and, finger tapping.

The action or an act of tapping one’s finger against a surface, especially in time to a musical beat, or as a sign of anxiety, agitation, etc.

So, we have started to occasionally incorporates, mental health, coping skills in our books. But after, nurse Florence, is fully developed, which I plan there to be around 300 books in the series, then I want to do a, mental health, series that will that will focus completely on, mental health. With all the different coping skills that we can do for different disorders. So, so that’s in the future.

Myrna: You’re doing excellent work. That was a beautiful way of introducing, mental health. Continue with that and write about some more of the things that people do. You know, you can even get into, cutting, and all the other things that the kids do.

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Does Nurse Florence address self harm

Michael: Yeah, Self-harm, is an issue that some parents that are listening to this are dealing with. The hospital that I worked at we regularly have patients there that are only there for, self-harm, and some of them have very bad scars up and down their arms and legs, and then they have to wear long sleeve shirts, maybe the rest of their life. These are so embarrassed what they’ve done. But there’s is a book that I found called “Freedom from Self Harm” I bought extra copies of this book on Amazon and I give them to those adolescent kids that have that real, self-harm, issues.

And every single kid that I’ve given that to have basically said it was life changing because the authors of this book let the child know that they understand where they’re coming from and why they’re doing it, and what they can do to help overcome those urges. So, if you have a child that’s dealing with self-harming cutting behaviors, then get them this book.

Myrna: I brought it up because you’re right, it’s one of the things the kids do. Even Willow Smith, who is Will Smith’s daughter was talking about how she was, cutting, herself and her parents knew nothing about it. Now, our topic is about, health literacy for children. So, you feel you felt that our country is deficient in this. So, talk to us about our country’s, health literacy, whether it’s a good for kids or whether it’s for adults. But do people know what’s going on with their bodies?

https://youtu.be/ARb3KuRrSJc

Our country has poor health literacy

Michael: I’d like to read some things from HealthyPeople.gov so that we’re on the same page. The Department of Health and Human Services defines, health literacy, as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions. So, what healthypeople.gov found is that patients with low, health literacy, levels are more likely to use the emergency department and more likely to return to the ICU after two weeks of being discharged.

They also they found that uninsured and publicly Insured, the people on Medicaid are at a higher risk for low, health literacy, and that almost half of adults who did not graduate from high school had low, health literacy. Another interesting thing that they found was that 74% of Spanish speaking, patients in the US had less than adequate, health literacy, as compared to 7% of English-speaking patients. So, the Hispanic community has an issue.  Another quick little fact here is that low, health literacy, is more prevalent among older adults, minority populations, those with low set socioeconomic status, and the medically underserved people.

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They found that people with low, health literacy:

  • have a problem finding a doctor or even services for their medical problems or mental health problem to even know who to even look for or what kind of specialty to look for?
  • They have a problem filling out health forms.
  • They have a problem telling their doctor or their nurse about their medical history.
  • They have a problem seeking preventative health care and
  • They also have problems connecting risky behaviors in their health problems.
  • They have a problem managing chronic health conditions like maybe heart disease or even chronic kidney disease.
  • They can have a problem understanding directions on medication bottles.
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Nurse Florence addresses health literacy for children

So, poor literacy in health is a real thing. And so, nurse Florence, the series addresses these issues in many different ways. Not only does the general science help just bring basic education like how do we smell thing? How do we hear things? How do we see things? Basic things like that, you know, how does the brain work or how our nervous system works and things like that. But we’ve also started exploring disease topics so, Nurse Florence, what is kidney disease, nurse Florence, what is a heart attack?

So, the idea is that if a parent or grandparents had a heart attack, then the parents could buy the heart attack book and read it with your child or grandchild? To show what grandma or grandpa has just gone through? We have already started finding is that really alleviates worry by the grandkids. Parents are giving us feedback like, hey, I’m reading this book with my child and I’m learning too. So not only are we increasing the, health literacy for children, so that they can grow up good education and understanding of how the body works, but parents as well they read it with their kids. They are going to learn a couple of things.

And then one other thing I’d like to especially note out if you noticed on the website, all the different covers that, nurse Florence, is different in every book. So, the Health Resources and Services Administration says that one thing that providers can do to help with low, health literacy, is to reflect the age, cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of patients. That means we need more African American doctors and nurses. We need more Hispanic doctors and nurses we need everybody in the system. You know, to help with all the different racial diversity.

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Nurse Florence addresses Diversity and Inclusion

So, what we’ve done is, nurse Florence, is a different race and ethnicity in every book. And this is to inspire kids to be like, Hey Mommy, look at this nurse for she’s she looks just like me. I could be a nurse when I grow up. So, we are addressing this, racial diversity, need in healthcare.  We got a Native American, nurse Florence, that’s been drawn right now. In one of the future books, we’re going to have an Indian.  We’re just going to keep the ball rolling and keep all the different ethnicities, because we believe that, diversity, and also, inclusion, is very important in health care.

Maybe if we can inspire the kids while they’re young, then maybe we can have a whole cohort of kids over the next five or 10 years that are gonna grow up wanting to get into the healthcare field or jobs in science, so that we can truly be racially diverse, ethnically diverse in in this important field.

One final thing about that Spanish comment is that there’s a lot of low, health literacy, with the Spanish speaking. We’re translating the books into Spanish and that’s thanks to my wife. She’s from Mexico. So, she is doing the Spanish translations and we hope to have an impact on the Hispanic community as well.

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Short list of Nurse Florence Children Book series

Myrna: That is absolutely amazing. You said a lot there. Let me see I don’t have all the titles here, but some of the ones that we already talked about are:

So, these are some of the titles that I picked out from your website, what are some of the other titles that you want to highlight in this conversation?

Michael: Another of the, nurse Florence, series is “Can I get Lyme Disease from a Tick Bite?” So that was actually at the suggestion of one of the illustrators. Because, Lyme disease, is bacterial infection from the tick bite.  One thing that’s neat is in the book, we have a very clear drawing picture of how to remove the tick with tweezers, the wrong and the right way. So, again, back to educating parents, not only our kids gonna get educated, but if the parents read this book with their child, they’re gonna see the proper technique of how to remove a tick so they don’t get, Lyme disease.

Book Nurse Florence How do we hear things
Book Nurse Florence How do we hear things

Conclusion Pick up your copy of Nurse Florence

Myrna: Sounds amazing. How can listeners get copies of your books?

Michael: So, you can go to https://nurseflorence.org/ That’s our main website and it has a links to many different things.  You can also find the books on Amazon. You might have to search like nurse Florence Michael Dow to get those books easily because there’s so many books on, nurse Florence, and this is such a new series, the books are not at the top of the list.  There’s also links to the programs that we’ve won the four awards for the three books, so that you can see for yourself on their websites of what we’ve won.

And, and also, I’d like to mention that next month we’re going to start a contest an essay contests for kids.  The winner gets a set of free set of the, nurse Florence, current series. Why that will help them in science and in school and help with their character. The grand prize winner will get a free set of the hardcover books of every book that we published so far. And then there will be runner up that will get a couple of books. This contest will definitely be by the end of September of 2022. We’re going to have the contest posted on the web site and you’ll be able to do that submission so that your child can get reviewed and hopefully win the grand prize.

Additional Resources

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