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Importance of Health and Media Literacy

Nevertheless research suggests that children's eating habits are formed even before they enter the classroom - children as young as two may already have dietary preferences based on their parents' food choices - health education can play a vital role in helping establish lifelong healthy patterns early.

Research shows that health education has a positive impact on health behaviors as well as academic achievement, and that the most effective means of improving health literacy is ensuring that health education is included in curriculum at all levels of education.

U. S. schools educate 54 million students daily, and can provide not only an outlet to promote healthy behaviors for children and adolescents, but a place for them to engage in these behaviors, including eating healthy and participating in physical activity.

The U. S. is in great need of an improvement in health literacy. In a 2007 UNICEF study, our country ranked last out of 21 industrialized countries in overall child health and safety. Approximately one in five of our high school students are smokers, 80 percent of students do not eat the recommended five servings of vegetables and fruits per day, and more than 830, 000 adolescents become pregnant each year. Approximately two thirds of the American population is estimated to be overweight or obese.

Furthermore, our understandings of health and health-related behaviors are often highly influenced by the media and media images - which can lead to inaccurate assumptions and negative health behaviors and attitudes.

The importance of media literacy as applies to health education

Self-esteem patterns also develop in early childhood, although they fluctuate as kids gain new experiences and perceptions. Because media messages can influence unhealthy behaviors, certainly in adolescents, a comprehensive health education program must include not only health knowledge, but media literacy as it relates to psychological and physical health behaviors as well. Read more physical therapy

"To a large degree, our images of how to be comes from the media. They are [a] crucial shaper of the young lives we are striving to direct, " writes resource teacher Neil Andersen, editor of Mediacy, that Association for Media Literacy newsletter.

Media awareness, Andersen explains, can help teach students techniques to counter marketing programs that prey on their insecurities to promote negative behavior, can explode stereotypes and misconceptions, can facilitate positive attitudes and can help students learn how to absorb and question media-conveyed information.

Because our perceptions of ourselves and others develop early, and because we live in such a media-inundated environment, it is important that we address the conflicts inherent in media values versus our own values with our children and adolescents first, in a factual, positive, and coherent way.

A comprehensive (age-appropriate) health program would therefore teach about these various issues at different stages of development. Pre-adolescence and adolescence are especially pertinent stages in an individual's growth for discovering themselves and their place in the world, along with being during this vital time that media literacy is absolutely key to an influential and positive health program. Issues must be addressed that affect positive health behavior and attitudes, especially in teen girls, including:

• Digital manipulation of the body in advertisement - Almost all of what we see in media has been altered or digitally manipulated to some extent.

• Objectification of the body in media - Since 1960s, sexualized images of men in the media have increased 55 percent, while sexualized images of women increased 89 percent, according to a University of Buffalo study. There are also 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women.

• Average women versus models - Models today are 24 percent skinnier than the average woman, versus 9 percent skinnier in the 80s.

We live in a pop-culture that not only promotes a hyper-skinny-is-best attitude, but also discourages average or healthy body ideals and individuals from feeling good about simply pursuing healthy dietary choices - they feel they must resort instead to drastic (and quick) weight loss measures that put unhealthy stress relating to the body.

For example , a study released in 2006 by the University of Minnesota showed that 20 percent of females had used diet pills by the time they were 20 years old. The researchers also found that 62. 7 percent of teenage females used "unhealthy weight control behaviors, " including the use of diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or skipping meals. The rates for teenage boys were about half that of girls.

"These numbers are startling, and they tell us we need to do a better job of helping our daughters feel better about themselves and avoid unhealthy weight control behaviors, " concluded Professor Dianne Neumark-Sztainer. Over the five-year period that the study was conducted, moreover, researchers found that high school-aged females' use of diet pills nearly doubled from 7. 5 percent to 14. two percent.

What teaching health and media literacy can do

When a colleague asked Doctor Caren Cooper, a Research Associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, what the opposite of media was, she paused only briefly before answering, "Reality, of course. "

"We each need logic tools to realize that all media is a representation of reality - if we don't bring this realization into our mindset, we are apt to forget and let our own reality become distorted: fostering a culture of over-consumption, eating disorders, sexual violence, and climate change deniers, " she explained.

Teaching health education comprehensively in today's rapidly changing world is important for fostering skills that students will carry with them for the rest of their lives, including:

• Developing positive body affirmations - Accepting their bodies, agreeing to other's bodies, and showing respect for one another. A good exercise would be to have them write down good things about each other - without the words beautiful, or descriptions of size, as well as what they love about themselves - both physical and character traits.

• Understanding the importance of eating right - And that it's not about "dieting. " Perhaps the biggest misconception is that as long as a person loses body fat, it doesn't matter what they eat. But it does, and being thin and being healthy are not the same thing. What you eat affects which diseases you may develop, regardless of your size, and diets that may help you lose weight (especially quickly) can be very harmful to your health over time.

• Understanding the importance of exercise - People who eat right but don't exercise, for example , may technically be at a healthy weight, but their fitness level fails to match. This means that they may carry too much visceral (internal) fat and not enough muscle.

"Given the growing concern about obesity, it is important to let young people know that dieting and disordered eating behaviors can be counterproductive to weight management, " said researcher Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. "Young people concerned about their weight should be provided support for nutritious eating and physical activity behaviors that can be implemented on a long-term basis, and should be steered away from the use of unhealthy weight control practices. "

We must also teach them:

• How to reduce stress by engaging in activities and other outlets.

• The importance of sleep.

• The importance of vitamins.

• The importance of not always being "plugged in" - The natural environment has great health benefits, and too much technological know-how may even be hazardous to our health.

"We're surrounded by media images for such a large portion of our daily lives, it's almost impossible to escape from it, " explained IFN representative Collete during an interview with EduCoup. "We get the majority of our information today through media, be it music, TV, the internet, advertising or magazines, so it really is incredibly important for us as a society to think about the emails we receive from the media critically. "

Dental Hygiene and Overall Health

People are discovering more and more about the connections between dental health and the health of our entire body.

If our eyes are the windows to our soul, then our mouth is the front door to our body and the teeth may well be the windows to our health, according to mounting evidence that suggests there is a strong link between them. Which is something I have been saying as a holistic dentist for many years.

If the scientists are right - along with the evidence is becoming hard to ignore - our oral health can play a big part in our risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even the health of a newborn child. And this may be only the tip of the iceberg.

"There's a whole lot of research out there at the moment trying to focus on the links between oral health and general health in both directions - poor oral health affecting general health and poor general health affecting oral health, inch says Dr Matthew Hopcraft, president of the Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch Inc.

It's not surprising really. The whole body is connected, but for such a long time people and medicine have thought about the mouth as being a separate part of the body and that dentists work in isolation from the rest of the body. That clearly doesn't make any sense anymore, anatomically or physiologically as the mouth and teeth are a part of people and are connected to the body by a vast myriad of blood vessels and nerve supply, plus all our food and drinks enter the body via the mouth.

ORAL HEALTH AND HEART DISEASE

It appears that poor oral health, and in particular the presence of inflammation in the form of gum disease, increases your risk of heart disease as well as stroke. A study conducted by the University of Queensland found that it was the bacteria found in that mouth, and more specifically in infected gums, that are so damaging. The group was able to locate T cells that are reactive to oral bacteria in the arteries of people with atherosclerosis, where damage to the arteries is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits.

Finding oral bacteria inside coronary arteries in people with heart disease is not something you would expect to find but bacteria from the mouth sitting in a circulation vessel in the heart suggests that this is where the link between gum disease and heart disease is coming from. As the mouth acts as a kind of portal, allowing bacteria to travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body especially in a person with gum disease as the blood vessels become more swollen and more permeable, and more likely to allow bacteria or bacterial toxins from the infected gums into the bloodstream where they go other parts of the body.

Our gums are too often neglected, despite the fact that the health of your gums can be just as important as the health of your teeth. In fact , it can be hard to have healthy teeth without healthy gums.

DIABETES LINKED TO GUM DISEASE

Less is known about the link between gum disease and diabetes, but the evidence is mounting. People are now starting to do the research and understand the links much more meticulously and it appears there may be a link between gum disease and diabetes, but it's probably more the other way around. Thus people with diabetes are more at risk of developing gum disease or gum disease becoming more aggressive and causing more problems due to the altered immune response experienced by people with diabetes that makes them more susceptible to the bacteria that cause gum disease. Poorly controlled diabetics frequently have problems with the microvascular system, so the small blood vessels tend not to work so well, which affects the way the gums respond and heal to gum disease. "

Treating gum disease can help with diabetes as if you can control gum disease, the diabetes becomes easier to control. Diabetes is much harder to control if there is an ongoing connection.

FROM MOTHER TO CHILD

The effects of dental health can even be carried from the mummy to the child. Gum disease or gingivitis is associated with increased rates of premature birth so it is important to make sure very early in pregnancy that expectant mothers have a dental visit to treat any issues. Around 18 per cent of premature births are related to gingivitis. Pregnancy itself can also affect dental health; there is an old folk belief that you lose a tooth for every child. The idea is that maternity can affect your general health and certainly tooth problems can become worse during pregnancy, so it's even more important to stay on top of any potential problems with regular dental visits during this time.

DRY MOUTH SYNDROME

A dry mouth can indicate a number of conditions and lifestyle factors, which can have a big impact on both oral health and overall health.

Dry mouth is a fairly common side effect for people taking a wide range of medications, especially if when someone is taking a lot of different medications as they tend to all work together to impact on saliva flow. Saliva is really important to be able to talk and chew and gives lubrication, which protects teeth from decay. It helps to wash away food and acid and provides a buffer against harm. People with low saliva flow are often at much higher risk of tooth decay.

Alcohol and illegal drugs may well produce dry mouth syndrome. A person's mouth gives you a lot of clues straight away as alcohol and drug use can affect the teeth. Cocaine, ecstasy, heroine, amphetamines can cause a lot of damage. Then there are some medical conditions which can lead to dry mouth, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Also as the mouth is a part of the gastro-intestinal system it also gives you some clues as to what's going on in other parts of the gut and with digestion.

The state of the mouth together with gums and oral health can paint an even broader picture of where a person is at. People with oral problems often report lower overall quality of life, lower self esteem and psychological wellbeing; and because of pain or the appearance of their teeth, they don't feel so great about themselves.

LINKING GPS TO DENTISTS

With links being drawn between oral health and the rest of the body, there has been a concerted push to connection GPs and dentists more than they have been in the past. GPs need to be able to detect abnormalities of the mouth and oral health. Doctors don't necessarily need to know how to treat these conditions but should at least be able to detect them and then refer to the appropriate dentist or specialist.

The AMA agrees saying: "Part of what we do is to educate GPs and nurses. The doctor should know, for instance, that their diabetic patients are more susceptible to gum disease and should be telling them that part of their management should be regular dental checkups. "

So simplistically if we can improve someone's oral health we can potentially reduce their risk of other significant health problems they may have and this is the main focus of holistic dental practice.

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