Welcome to Building Wellness™ a youth health literacy program!

Building Wellness™ and its curricula endeavor to encourage and empower children to seek, question, process and integrate health information so as to obtain the highest standard of health.  With family and community support, the program seeks to support students’ self-efficacy and sense of well-being in conditioning their lives to extend their ambitions and fulfill their aspirations.

Building Wellness is an 8-level youth health literacy curriculum series that offers 15 lessons per level targeting grades 1-8.  This free resource teaches students the skills they need to be active participants in their health care through experiential learning that is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Hundreds of youth have participated in Building Wellness from New York City to Los Angeles.  Assessments have shown that participants increase their knowledge levels and change behaviors based on the lessons in these 8 levels.  To learn more about the early development of Building Wellness, you can review an article published in the Journal of Health Communication, The Development of Building Wellness™, A Youth Health Literacy Program.  

The goal of Building Wellness™ is to increase participants’ self-efficacy to

  1. Obtain accurate health information from valid resources;
  2. Process health information received from a medical professional or from personal research; and
  3. Understand how this information affects their health and their individual decision making.


These goals will be met through interactive lessons meeting the Common Core State Standards concentrating on prevention of hospitalization due to asthma, accidental injury, overweight and obesity, and drug and alcohol use.

Facilitators use an easy-to-follow guide that provides goals and objectives, vocabulary and a script to teach lessons covering a wide range of important health topics from hand-washing to healthy eating to internet safety.  Each level has a complimentary Materials Book that provides all necessary information and student worksheets. 

Building Wellness™ was conceived by and its curricula was developed under the auspices of the Eugene M. Lang Foundation with the cooperation and support of educators, community organizations and health care providers, including Dr. Rima Rudd and Adeline Azrack from Harvard University’s School of Public Health. The “I Have A Dream” ® Foundation now owns and operates this curriculum. 

What is Health Literacy?Adeline Azrack, SM

Most health information is gathered from some combination of health professionals, the media, friends, and family. Consider for a moment the variety of skills drawn upon to obtain, understand, and use this information. For example, one must be able to understand the often complicated language of healthcare professionals, navigate a highly confusing health care system, communicate with health professionals and health care managers effectively about one’s physical and emotional health, read and sign important forms, find pertinent information (such as the amount of sodium in a can of soup or how much Tylenol to give a 4-year-old), and have the appropriate vocabulary to obtain and understand media communications. One of the most difficult skills is the ability to synthesize what is often conflicting information, apply it to our own lives, and then use it to make health-related decisions. The most crucial factor, and one we often take for granted, is self-efficacy—our own effectiveness in seeking information, making changes, and improving our lives. While one’s health is dependent on health education, information and knowledge do not result in health without the additional opportunity and ability to act.1

Adolescence is a stressful period and marks a transition from childhood dependency to adult independence. One major challenge that adolescents encounter involves acquiring a sense of personal agency—the capability to originate and direct actions for a given purpose. For health literacy education to make a difference, it must include the cultivation of both self-efficacy (one’s effectiveness) and personal agency.2  Building Wellness™ aims to build self-efficacy and personal agency at a young age to prepare youth for this transitional period.  The difference between health education and health literacy education is that while both involve the communication of health information and knowledge, only health literacy education incorporates the development of self-efficacy and personal agency which are necessary for the meaningful implementation of health knowledge.

Unfortunately, many Americans do not have the necessary health literacy skills to maintain a high standard of health. According to the 2003 National Adult Literacy Survey, nearly 50% of adults living in the United States have basic literacy skills equivalent to 12th grade or less and 21-23% have trouble with basic literacy tasks.3 In 2004, a survey of adult health literacy found that nearly 20% of adults in the United States will experience difficulty completing health literacy tasks proficiently.4

Inequities exist in levels of adult health literacy. Adults with less than a high school diploma or GED, members of minority populations, and immigrants have lower health literacy levels than other adults.5

These findings come in the midst of budget cuts in public schools that have resulted in significantly diminished resources for health and science classes, and marked differences in the access to, quality and continuity of health care in the United States for different populations.6

All of these data suggest that if schools make health literacy a regular part of its educational support programs, students will gain advanced health knowledge, health literacy skills, self efficacy, and personal agency and will enjoy better health. Healthy students are more likely to stay in school and achieve their educational and career goals. 


1Rudd, RE, Zobel, EK. Health Literacy Public Health Forums: Partners For Action
A “How-To” Guide On Designing And Implementing Health Literacy Forums at Departments of Health,
National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy and Adult Literacy and Learning Initiative, 2004, Harvard University, http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~ncsall/

2 Zimmerman, BJ, and Cleary, TJ. Adolescents’ development of personal agency: The role of self-efficacy beliefs and self-regulatory skill, in Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents, Frank Pajares and Tim Urden, Eds. Adolescence and Education Publishing, 2006

3 Rudd RE. Literacy and implications for navigating health care. Harvard School of Public Health: Health Literacy Website. 2002. Available at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/ slides/2002/2002_01.html. Accessed 4/8/05. Based upon the National Adult Literacy Survey, which was administered by the Educational Testing Service and funded by the US Department of Education. For more information, see http://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdf

4 Educational Testing Services: Literacy and Health in America (2004). Quote, p. 3. A copy of this document is available online at www.ets.org/research/pic.

5 Rudd, RE. Health literacy skills of US adults. Am J Health Behav. 2007 Sep-Oct; 31 Suppl 1:S8-18.

6 Crossing the Quality Chasm: The IOM Health Care Quality Initiative, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press, 1998. A copy of this document is available at http://www.iom.edu/?id=13027

"I Have A Dream" Foundation

322 Eighth Avenue, 2nd Floor,
New York, NY 10001.
Telephone: +1 (212) 293-5480
E-mail: info@ihaveadreamfoundation.org

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Building Wellness™ was conceived by the Eugene M. Lang Foundation in 2013. Its programs were developed under the auspices of the Foundation with the cooperation and support of educators, community organizations and health care providers. On January 1, 2016, the Foundation transferred ownership and operation exclusively to The “I Have A Dream” Foundation. This volume is the property of the “I Have A Dream” Foundation. Its contents are subject to copyright regulations and may not be reproduced without permission.
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