Materials Help Youth Evaluate Media Messages, Make Food, Activity Choices

A new after-school program helps kids interpret the numerous messages they receive every day to make healthier choices about food and physical activity. The materials, available free on the Web, were developed by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH.)

Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! is designed to help young people ages 11 to 13 become aware of how media may influence the choices they make. The program's fun, hands-on, interactive activities teach critical thinking skills that will help young people make smart decisions about what they eat and how they spend their time.

"Habits begun in childhood and reinforced in the teen years may become lifelong behaviors," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD. "Media-Smart Youth teaches young people how to evaluate the complex media messages they receive so they can make wise choices about eating and being active."

The Media-Smart Youth curriculum, available at http://, consists of 10 lessons and a major project that help young people acquire knowledge and skills in four key areas:

  • Media awareness - The curriculum includes materials to help young people recognize attention-getting techniques used in media messages and to evaluate the messages for accuracy and consistency with their own ideas of being healthy.
  • Media production - Participants express what they've learned through creative projects. These include a series of "Mini-Productions" in which youth develop their own media messages, and a final "Big Production" in which they may work with a local station, newspaper or other media partner to create radio ads, videos, posters or other media products that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to their peers.
  • Nutrition - Exercises and activities-such as learning to read and interpret Nutrition Facts Labels-teach young people important concepts for healthful eating and encourage them to practice making informed choices.
  • Physical activity - Each lesson incorporates discussion and an "Action Break" to help participants develop strategies for becoming more active in their daily lives. They discover that daily physical activity is anything that gets their bodies moving, and that it can be fun.

The accompanying Facilitator's Guide for the 10-lesson curriculum also includes a video tape or DVD featuring a program summary and tips for facilitators, plus youth-focused video segments for use in summarizing key concepts for each lesson.

To arrange an interview with Media-Smart Youth Coordinator, Jill Center, about the sites around the United States that are conducting the program, please contact Robert Bock or Marianne Glass Miller, listed above.

To order a free copy of the Media-Smart Youth after-school program materials, contact the NICHD Information Resource Center at 1-800-370-2943 or visit the Institute's Web site,


The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Web site at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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