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Digital Education Program Channels Altruism to Boost Vaccine Literacy

Kids Boost Immunity Lessons Share Indigenous Storytelling and History

A free online learning resource for Canadian students is tapping into children's altruism to improve vaccine literacy and promote immunizations in developing countries. Kids Boost Immunity (KBI) uses a series of articles, videos and online quizzes linked to school curricula in science, health and social studies to encourage students from grades four to 12 to think about immunization in a global context.

Quizzes solidify the learning from each lesson. Every time a student gets 80 per cent on a quiz, the program donates a vaccine to UNICEF Canada, which purchases vaccines for children in the developing world.

“The program is unique in that it brings together domestic and international immunization programs,” said Ian Roe. He is the National Manager for Kids Boost Immunity through his work for the BC Centre for Disease Control. KBI is administered through the Public Health Association of British Columbia with financial support from the BC Ministry of Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Roe was part of a panel that described the Kids Boost Immunity program to community health nurses at the FNHA’s recent 2019 Communicable Disease, Public Health and Indigenous Knowledge Exchange Forum.

The UNICEF connection “is the secret sauce,” according to Roe. “It’s the driver for education. Kids love helping other kids. We’re using that altruism as a means to an end.”

Roe says KBI is a triple win for public health “because we’re increasing vaccine literacy and hopefully reducing vaccine hesitancy. And it’s a win for the children in developing countries who receive a vaccine through UNICEF.”

Since it started a year ago in March 2018, students have answered more than 500,000 questions through KBI, earning more than 30,000 vaccines.

Jessica Harper, the Immunization Promotion Nurse for ImmunizeBC and a Nurse Specialist with the FNHA, helped to develop KBI. She says students are so enthusiastic about the program that at least 30 per cent of the traffic to the KBI website is outside school hours, including on Christmas day.

“KBI helps kids understand and appreciate their own immunizations,” she said. “A lot of times health care may ‘happen’ to kids and they don’t understand what it’s for.”

KBI’s education objectives go beyond immunization. KBI also encourages children to think critically about information they receive using the “CRAAP” principle: Current, Relevant, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose. With so much inaccurate information circulating about vaccinations, that’s a particularly important skill.

The program is also committed to Indigenous storytellers and having Elders lead the development of culturally appropriate content within various lessons. For example, Shawna Duncan (Cree and English) is a story writer and artist who co-created the lesson “New Diseases on Turtle Island”.  Her story follows a family where a Kokum (“Grandmother” in Cree) shares with her grandchildren some of the history about colonization and communicable diseases such as smallpox and their impact on Indigenous communities.

Elder Glida Morgan of the Tla’amin Nation narrates the story Hummingbird’s Vaccine. Hummingbird’s Vaccine is a modern story developed by students and teachers and community members from Neqweyqwelsten School, Simpcw First Nation, north of Kamloops, BC. This book was published by the First Nations Health Council in 2009.  

1.5 million children die each year as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases. Kids Boost Immunity aims to help reduce that tragic figure.

More Information

Do you know a teacher who is looking for free online resources to share in their classroom? KBI is available to all BC teachers and has a strong curriculum fit in science, social studies and health. Teachers can learn more about KBI and sign up here: https://kidsboostimmunity.com/how-it-works

Teachers can find out how KBI fits with BC’s learning outcomes here:  https://kidsboostimmunity.com/sites/default/files/reusable_files/kbi_bc.pdf

Do you have questions or would your community be interested in sharing your ideas or stories with KBI about vaccines or vaccine preventable diseases? Email KBI at info@kidsboostimmunity.com

Want to know how you can help? Go here: https://kidsboostimmunity​.com/how-you-can-help/

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2018: Original Art by Shawna Duncan

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