Louise Davis Langheier
This profile was prepared when Louise Davis Langheier was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Louise is working to incorporate comprehensive health education back into public schools in the United States so that teenagers have the knowledge and skills to make good decisions when facing health risks. She is co-founder of Peer Health Exchange (PHE), a network of health educators that runs workshops for 9th grade students in low-income schools where students experience a disproportionate number of dangerous health outcomes that threaten their educational success. Trained volunteers from local colleges lead the sessions across a range of topics—from sexual health to substance use to nutrition—and guide open discussions about these issues. Perhaps most important, the workshops teach students a set of decision-making and communication skills so they can apply what they learn in their many interpersonal relationships and effectively evaluate the implications of their decisions. PHE has become a model for how to promote healthy behavior among teens, and it is using its success to challenge conventional notions about the very role of our schools. PHE was founded in 2004 and now 17,000 teens are participating in PHE workshops across the country each year.