Media literacy

Media literacy plays a role in health and well-being

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In today’s climate of uncertainty about the veracity of news in general, information about the “right” sources of health can play an important role in our personal well-being. The myriad of media makes this a challenge. Therefore, becoming familiar with media literacy can greatly help us to make more informed choices.

So why emphasize the importance of understanding media in this fast-paced and increasingly tech-laden world we live in, especially when it comes to health and wellness? The importance of media messages, in the broadest sense, with both implicit and explicit content should not be underestimated in today’s society.

“To be literate in contemporary society means to be active, critical and creative users not only of written and spoken language, but also of the visual language of film and television, commercial and political advertising, photography, etc. Visual communication is part of the fabric of contemporary life. A quote that I particularly like sums it up well:

“We are drowned in information, but starved for knowledge.”
-John Naisbit, author/futurist

Media education for obesity prevention

Florida now has the 35th highest adult obesity rate in the nation, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America published in September 2016. The adult obesity rate in Florida is currently 26 .8%, against 18.4% in 2000 and 11.4%. in 1990. Additional Florida-specific health data can be viewed at the following website: http://stateofobesity.org/states/fl/

“Obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable diseases and billions of dollars in preventable health care costs,” said Richard Hamburg, president and CEO. of the interim director of Trust for America’s Health.

A proactive approach to health promotion
An important area to address is the focus on preventive care and involves a proactive approach that starts at the beginning with a focus on education and media literacy. But what is media literacy and how can one become more media literate?

“Media literacy” can be defined as the ability to consume (and create media) critically. Media savvy people are better able to decipher the complex messages they receive from television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, billboards and signs, packaging and marketing materials , video games and the Internet.

Media literacy skills can help understand not only the superficial content of media messages, but also the deeper and often more important meanings beneath the surface. A good summary description providing additional introductory information on media literacy can be found at:
http://www.medialiteracy.net/pdfs/intro_ml.pdf

Role of educational standards
Teaching our children to be media literate at an early age could be accomplished by using educational standards to focus more on knowledge processing and not just knowledge acquisition. This is increasingly important in today’s information age. Pedagogical skills and not just content will:
• Knowing how to access the right information when needed (particularly valuable with the amount of health and related information available to consumers)
• Skills to analyze and evaluate what you find
• Skills in formulating questions to clarify your research
• Skills to summarize and integrate what you conclude
• Skills to clearly communicate it to someone else.
Using a strategy of linking media literacy with standards-based education has the potential to make us more informed consumers, reduce health care costs, and ultimately to lead to a healthier America.

To thrive as adults in the 21st century, media literacy, with a process of inquiry at its core, will provide a bridge that students can cross to learn the critical skills they will need to survive, thrive and thrive as healthier individuals, both physically and psychologically.
For a more in-depth discussion of media literacy, please see the following resources:
National Association for Media Literacy: http://namle.net/
Media Education Center: http://www.amlainfo.org/

Mark Mahoney, Ph.D., has been a registered dietitian and nutritionist for over 30 years. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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