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Formal Evaluation Reveals Positive Outcomes for Participating Youth

Children eating watermelonIn a recent 12-month period, U.S. 11- to 14-year-olds spent nearly 7 hours using media—TV, computers, video games, etc.—every day. Much of this “screen time” involved being physically inactive, while also taking in messages and ads, often for candy, sugary cereals, and fast food.

To help young people navigate this complex media world, the NICHD developed Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active!®, an interactive afterschool program designed to teach 11- to 13-year-olds about media and its impact on their health—especially in terms of nutrition and physical activity. Since its initial release in 2005-2006, Media-Smart Youth has been a very popular item and has helped the NICHD establish and strengthen a number of national partnerships with various organizations and non-profit groups. But does the program really work to help young people make healthier decisions?

To find out how well the program worked and to what extent it achieved its stated goals, the NICHD recently conducted a rigorous evaluation of Media-Smart Youth. The results were encouraging.

The Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! Program combines youth-development principles and practices with current research about nutrition and physical activity. Through its ten structured lessons and numerous resources, the program addresses four key areas—media awareness, media production, nutrition, and physical activity—to achieve the following goals:

  • Help 11- to 13-year-olds become aware of, and think critically about, media’s role in influencing their nutrition and physical activity choices.
  • Assist young people in building skills that help them make informed decisions about being physically active and eating nutritiously in daily life.
  • Encourage young people to establish healthy habits that will last into adulthood.

The Institute developed and tested Media-Smart Youth concepts and materials prior to the release of the initial program materials. Several months ago, the NICHD conducted an evaluation with the following features:

  • Using a randomized groups design, evaluators matched pairs of schools with afterschool programs according to the socioeconomic status of the school; they were then randomly assigned to either the experimental or the control group.
  • Facilitators administered pre- and post-tests to groups of youth who participated in the program.
  • Evaluators conducted qualitative interviews with program facilitators
  • Evaluators also used facilitator logs and observer notes to document the steps to delivering successful lessons and activities.

Overall, the evaluation found that:

  • Youth who participated in Media-Smart Youth displayed an overall increase in knowledge and skills in nutrition, physical activity, media awareness, and media analysis compared with youth who did not participate
  • There was a significant difference between youth who participated in Media-Smart Youth and those who did not in terms of their intention to do more weight-bearing activities in the next month
  • There was a strong trend among youth who participated in Media-Smart Youth for showing greater changes in their intention to eat fewer high-fat snack foods and to eat or drink more foods with calcium during the next month
  • Facilitators provided useful feedback about the successes and challenges of administering the program in after-school settings.

Select the “Report on the Evaluation of the Media-Smart Youth Curriculum” link below to read the full report.

To spread the word about the evaluation and its findings among program managers of afterschool programs, community organizations, health departments, and other types of organizations, the NICHD created a one-page Media-Smart Youth® Evaluation Summary Fact Sheet . This fact sheet briefly explains the evaluation process and outcomes and is intended for those involved with planning, managing, and approving afterschool activities. The fact sheet is available for download and for order through the Media-Smart Youth Web site (select link above).

For more information about Media-Smart Youth, check out the following resources:

Originally Posted: August 4, 2009

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