Books, research

Why Schools Need to Teach Critical Media Health Literacy Across the Curriculum

Widespread obesity, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, and highly digital and sedentary lifestyles are just a few of the many challenges facing young people. Although public schools in the United States have the potential for meeting these challenges on a mass scale, they are slow to respond. The emphasis on discrete subject areas and standardized test performance offers little in the way of authentic learning and may in reality impede health. Health literacy in the twenty-first century requires critical decision making across the contexts and complexities of everyday life.

In her latest book, Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools: How Media Literacy Education Can Renew Education in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield), Dr. Vanessa (Domine) Greenwood (a full professor in SCM) reframes health education as a complex terrain that resides within a larger ecosystem of historical, social, political, and global economic forces. Catalyzing health literacy in the United States therefore necessitates a paradigm shift away from the current definition of health as the discovery and treatments and cures for disease to a definition that compels the active construction of health. A media literacy approach to health requires contextualizing choices and behaviors according to external factors of influence while also taking responsibility for one’s own health and the health of families and communities.

Dr. Domine calls for a media-literate pedagogy that empowers students to be critical consumers, creative producers, and responsible citizens. This book illustrates holistic health education through school-community initiatives and innovative partnerships that are successful in magnifying all curriculum subjects and their associated teaching practices. Dr. Domine offers teachers, teacher educators, school administrators, community organizers, public health professionals, and policymakers with a transmedia and transdisciplinary educational approach to adolescent health to demonstrate how our collective focus on cultivating healthy teens will ultimately yield healthy schools.

Chapter one paints a statistical picture of the current climate in the United States that is anything but conducive to health among its adolescent population.

Chapter two offers a media history of adolescent health to illustrate the ways in which our technological landscape has evolved into one that simultaneously opposes and promotes health.

Chapter three outlines the principles and practices of media literacy education, which is not just what young people learn about health through media and education, but also how they learn it.

Chapter four disentangles several key threads of research, legislation, and policy that have impacted adolescent health education.

Chapter five calls attention to the marginalization of health and physical education in schools as collateral damage from the decades-long emphasis on standardized testing.

Chapter six highlights pockets of innovation involving collaborative efforts of communities, schools, families, and advocacy groups that have emerged in recent years in response to the call for increased health literacy within at-risk populations.

You can access Healthy Teens, Healthy Schools in hardcover, paperback and e-book.

Join the conversation at  healthyteens.us 


Dr. Vanessa (Domine) Greenwood is the former chair of the Department of Secondary and Special Education at Montclair State University and the founder and lead faculty member of the C+MRC within the School of Communication and Media. She is the author of Rethinking Technology in Schools (Peter Lang). As a former vice president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), she is interested in how media and technology can support democratic practices in education. Follow her on Twitter @VanessaEGreenwd