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As school districts across the country make plans to reopen in the face of an ever-changing public health crisis, how do we equip educators with the tools they need to speak effectively to their students about the persistence of COVID-19? How do we build awareness and understanding for students spanning kindergarten through grade 12 about the science of the virus and its impact on social and emotional well-being? The Johns Hopkins Health Education and Training (HEAT) Corps will collaborate with classroom teachers to convey these essential public health messages that are critical to abating the pandemic and to promoting an inclusive recovery.

With new COVID-19 infections surging in the population under the age of 35, youth advocates represent an integral defense against the pandemic. The HEAT Corps will discuss how students can make a difference by modeling social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing. Through a series of 45-minute sessions—using both live, virtual teaching and recorded presentations—the HEAT Corps aims to heighten K-12 student awareness about the science of COVID-19 and the public health response.

Additional benefits of the program include increased engagement between K-12 students and health care professionals, development of a pipeline of health educators from diverse backgrounds, and implementation of a “teach the teacher” model of health education that can be scaled locally and/or nationally.

The HEAT Corps leverages expertise and partnerships from across the Johns Hopkins Institutions. The Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions brings together educators, researchers, and clinicians to focus on developing successful, replicable and scalable school-based health solutions that address barriers to health and wellness access among underserved populations. Part of the Johns Hopkins Bayview medical residency program, Medicine for the Greater Good promotes health and wellness beyond the confines of the hospital through interactive and engaging partnerships with the community. SOURCE—the community engagement and service-learning center serving the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Public Health, Education, Nursing, and Medicine—creates strategies to integrate public health practice and community outreach activities into academic training in the health professions. And the Office of Economic Development expands and elevates our commitment to Baltimore through investments in economic and neighborhood development, health care, and education. HEAT Corps began with Dr. Galiatsatos’s Medicine for Greater Good, which taught the Lung Ambassador Program, and since pivoted to teaching about the science of COVID-19 in Baltimore schools.