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Media literacy for health: Evaluating its effectiveness in schools

Chris Hollis, MPH, MPS, Manager, Health Promotion, University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center, 2701 Frontier NE, Surge Bldg, #251, Albuquerque, NM 87131, 505-272-4462, CHollis@salud.unm.edu

Media literacy is recommended for inclusion in tobacco prevention and school health education programs, but few evaluations of these programs exist. The University of New Mexico Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (CHPDP) and the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP) implemented an innovative, participatory evaluation of the NMMLP’s CD-ROM-based, K-12 media literacy for health curriculum. The evaluation examined whether the program improved ability to critically analyze media and understand how media affects health decisions in six key health education areas (tobacco, alcohol and drugs, sexuality, violence, physical activity, and nutrition).

First, quantitative and qualitative research methods were used pre- and post-intervention to evaluate teacher training in terms of use of the curriculum, media analysis skills, and media and health beliefs. The curriculum was evaluated in the classroom, administering pre- and post-lesson tests to students, and gaining teacher feedback through focused group discussion and short questionnaires. After training, educators significantly improved understanding of key media literacy concepts and skills, but showed some weakness in understanding the media-health connection. Middle and high school students improved learning scores, with limited statistical significance. Lessons evaluated in class showed potential to improve media analysis skills and understanding of the media-health relationship. Evaluating curricula in the “real world” provides lessons about the difference in how interventions are intended to be used, how they are used in actual school situations, and how research methods need to be adapted to meet situational factors.

Learning Objectives:

  • At the end of this session, participants will be able to

    Keywords: Media Literacy, Health Education

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Focus on the Adolescent/Young Adult in Health Communication Research

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA