Health Media Literacy is a 21st Century Essential Skill

Optimal health is not just the absence of illness or disease; it is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. I can’t think of anything more challenging right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.  While we may be locked down temporarily, we must not lock ourselves in to the status quo of formalized schooling—including what constitutes core curriculum. Disparate times call for disparate measures, so to speak.

Navigating the current pandemic requires that young people acquire an increasingly complex set of skills, such as understanding statistical data, evaluating the credibility and truthfulness of health information, analyzing the risks and benefits of a particular treatment or vaccine, and interpreting test results. An essential skill in 2021 is health media literacy.

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Starting a Food [Education] Revolution

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution aired on U.S. television between from March 2010 and June 2011. Its star was English celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver and the show documented Oliver’s attempt to help Americans fight obesity. Oliver’s mantra was “start a revolution with real people and real change.” The first episode takes place in Huntington, West Virginia, one of the unhealthiest towns in the U.S. The show documents Oliver trying to improve the eating habits of the residents—but not without opposition.

In the second season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Oliver visits Los Angeles, California, on a mission to change school meals. Oliver clashes with cafeteria staff over the pizza served for breakfast and the chicken nuggets and flavored milk for lunch. The show depicts the difficulty in introducing change within one of the largest school systems in the U.S. Despite the show winning an Emmy Award in 2010, it was cancelled in 2011 and Oliver was ultimately barred from filming at any Los Angeles public school. The audience is reminded that the daily schedule, student motivation, and the bureaucracies of the school system cannot be separated from the wider social, political and economic contexts in which they exist. In other words, schools are complicated organisms.

You can watch Jamie’s inspirational TED Talk, “Teach Every Child About Food” [21:53] below: