Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why TV Matters: Sesame Street

This is a crazy few weeks for me so I am not sure how much I will be posting. It is finals week, I have two championship races for crew and then senior week and graduation. The good thing about end of the semester though is that I get to finish my Term Papers, which I love to write.

For my History of International and Global Health class we were allowed to pretty much pick any topic that has to do with international health, so I picked a topic I know and I love... Television. I wanted to write about how TV can help promote good health and hygiene practices globally, and I found it in the form of Sesame Street.

During my research and writing process for the paper, I have basically falling in love with the show. I may be one of their biggest advocates at the moment. Sesame Street is one of the only things I can think and talk about recently. There are 19 different culturally specific versions of Sesame Street all around the world. Different countries create their own sets, have their own actors and Muppets and convey messages about health in culturally relevant contexts. You can check out all of the countries shows and teaching points on their website.

The most progressive and impressive health initiative that is being aired now, in my opinion, is in the South African production Takalani Sesame where they have an HIV positive Muppet named Kami. She is a five-year-old girl who is asymptomatic and a fun loving kid. She is helping reduce the stigma of HIV in South Africa and increasing the awareness of how it is spread and how children can help keep themselves healthy. The show has also increased dialogue between parents and children about the disease. It is phenomenal especially in a country that is plagued with this virus. For more information you can get there fact sheet here.

I am utterly speechless about the conservative objections to Kami. I do not think I can even comment without feeling sick to me stomach

Television gets flack all the time for being unhealthy. It causes children to become obese because it is a sedentary activity, it causes kids to be lazy, kids lose their imagination. Or the other side, TV has images children should not see, it promotes sex, promiscuity, alcohol, violence and other bad behaviors. What people usually neglect to point out is that television can also promote GOOD behaviors and teach children positive and productive values. It is a medium that conveys sound and image to stimulate multiple senses and keep children engaged. It also is widespread and you can broadcast across an entire country so it is cost efficient as well. Television is a medium that is so often criticized and yet it has so much potential for good, and has proven that it can help improve the lives of children across the world.


If anyone has any questions about Sesame Street or wants to learn more about the show shoot me an e-mail/comment or check out their website at:



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