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Odyssey House Develops Family Health Educational Initiative with Support from Aetna Foundation

New Health Literacy Curriculum Teaches Families in Treatment How to Access Healthcare, Practice Health Prevention, and Improve Family Nutrition

Odyssey House is pleased to announce that the Aetna Foundation is supporting the development of a new health education initiative aimed at improving overall physical health and quality of life for young families in treatment at Odyssey House. The $25,000 grant will allow Odyssey House to develop an enhanced health literacy program for pregnant women, women with infants, and parents with young children residing at the Family Center of Excellence.

Dr. Peter Provet, President of Odyssey House thanked Aetna Foundation for its ongoing support and partnership of services that improve the health and wellbeing of families in treatment. “We are grateful to Aetna Foundation for joining us investing in families while they are in treatment – an investment that pays off in helping families manage their health today, and in preparation for healthier lives tomorrow when they complete our program.“

For the majority of residents in our Family Center of Excellence Program, poor health literacy typically manifests itself in a pretreatment history of a disproportionate use of emergency room facilities, misunderstanding of and failure to follow treatment and prescription instructions, and low levels of participation in preventive screening – all of which can lead to poorer health status for themselves and their children.

The Healthy Literacy Curriculum is made up of three key health components:

• Access to healthcare: basic knowledge and understanding of the health care system, empowering parents to better communicate and be active participants in their family health care needs, and connecting them to a community-based health care provider upon completion of Odyssey House treatment;

• Power of prevention: knowledge of preventative and routine healthcare measures for themselves and their children including emergency medicine, immunizations, preventive screening, dispensing medicine and child development; and

• Healthy eating: develop parents’ understanding of how healthy eating relates to the prevention and control of chronic diseases for themselves and their children.

The consequences and economic costs of inadequate health literacy are substantial. Recent research estimates the financial burden of health illiteracy to be between $106 billion and $236 billion annually. The Institute of Medicine reports that 90 million people in the United States have difficulty understanding and using health information. Poor health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s health than age, income, employment status, education level, and race.

Odyssey House operates three Family Centers in East Harlem, Wards Island, and the South Bronx serving as many as 210 parents and children annually. Our centers provide mothers (and fathers) the opportunity to live with their young children while participating in 24/7 residential substance abuse treatment.

This is the second healthcare initiative supported by Aetna Foundation to benefit families in treatment at Odyssey House. In 2008, Aetna partnered with Odyssey House to provide pediatric dental care and education for children living with their parents in our Family Center and teens in our adolescent treatment centers.

Odyssey House provides quality substance abuse treatment, mental health, medical, dental and housing services to vulnerable New Yorkers. Family-focused residential and outpatient treatment meets the needs of women with children, adolescents, young adults, the mentally ill, the homeless, people living with HIV/AIDS, and senior citizens. For further information on Odyssey House, please visit

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