Out with the Old, in with the New: 5 Adolescent Health Experiences that Have Changed in the Past 10 Years


If you’re a parent relying on memories from your own school experience to relate to your school-aged children on health topics, you may be in need of some continuing education!  Although your child may follow your reference to the Pythagorean Theorem, chances are he or she will be puzzled if you mention the food pyramid. Here are 5 health-related models that have changed in the past 10 years:

OUT: The Food Pyramid

In:  My Plate

                                          03pyramid old jumbo             03pyramid plate jumbo

Posted on the walls of many classrooms and doctors' offices around the country is a new visual aid to offer dietary guidelines. Nutritionists often criticized the original visual--the food pyramid (launched in 1992)--for being misleading and hard to understand.  Spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, MyPlate was introduced as a better way for people to understand and apply healthy meal choices. The new, simpler image of a plate divided into basic food groups was intended to be more straightforward and more clearly present portion size.

If you’re looking for lesson plans that utilize MyPlate, see our MyPlate, My Body program here.

OUT:  “Stranger Danger”

IN: “Check First”

The concept of “stranger danger” was born of a desire to help protect children from abductions by teaching them to be wary of requests or interactions from adults that they do not know.  Current evidence shows that most children who are abducted are taken by people they know, leaving the message of “stranger danger” incomplete.  2 new models for teaching kids about safe adult interaction include:

  • Check First: “Check First” teaches kids to always check with the adult assigned to be in charge of them at the moment (a teacher, babysitter, parent, older sibling, etc) before going anywhere with another adult.
  • Tricky People: The Tricky People concept teaches kids how to differentiate between an adult who many be unsafe and one that is a true friend.  This model teaches children that an unsafe or “tricky” adult will ask a child for help or assistance, whereas a safe adult will ask another adult. You can read more about the Tricky People concept here.

OUT: Lawless Lunches

IN: Nutrition Standards set forth by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act 

In 2010, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act changed the parameters for the composition of school meals. The Act mandated nutrition standards for meals that were based on proportions set forth by MyPlate.

Many schools have also typical replaced vending machine offerings with healthier alternatives; most banning soda and other high-sugar drinks and snacks.

You can read about the standards here.

OUT: Peanut Butter

IN: Sunflower Butter

Food Allergies potentially affect 1 in every 13 children.  According to the CDC, food allergies among children have increased 50% between 1997 and 2011.  Public schools are not required to ban common allergens (there are 8 foods that cause 97% of allergic reactions), but many have opted to do so for the safety of their students.

Read more here.

OUT: Vague physical activity goals 

IN: Physical Activity Guidelines

Although Physical Education has been a component of education since the 1800s, there hasn’t been a universal recommendation for how much and what types of exercise children need.

Human Health and Services introduced its Physical Activity guidelines including those for children in 2011. Guidelines for children aged 6-17 include:

-       Children should get 1 hour or more of physical activity per day

-       Vigorous-intensity activity should be included in this 1 hour on at least 3 days a week.

-       Muscle-strengthening activities should be included on at least 3 days

-       Bone-strengthening activities should be included on at least 3 days

The recommendations also suggest children be encouraged to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, enjoyable, and offer variety.  This may be in contrast to the current trend in extracurricular sports, which has children focusing on one sport in order to be more competitive later on.


What other changes in the world of health and safety education have you encountered?

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