"to inspire individuals to take charge of their health by assuming personal responsibility for their choices. This, we believe, is prevention at its best! By bringing the body to life via lovable organ characters, kids of all ages learn what it really means to be smart from the inside out. With all of the troubling news about the obesity crisis, our evidence-based programming offers a viable, possible solution."
the program is thoughtful, fun, and easy-to-use. materials are available in spanish and english, and the creators have made efforts to take race into account in creating their resources and lesson plans. when purchasing the OrganWise curriculum, schools and community organizations receive both a male and female doll and can choose, from a variety of skin colors, "the ethnicity that most reflects the population of your school."
|OrganWise Dolls with President Michelle Lombardo from Training Video|
that the dolls have been created in different skin colors is laudable, but it does require a decision that should cause some pause. choosing a skin color that "most reflects" a school's population will necessarily exclude some children. in u.s. public schools populated by children of all skin colors from a variety of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who decides what skin color is best representative for the whole student body? this choice becomes most problematic in schools with a high number of white students. what kind of message is sent to students of color when the healthy body is a white one?
mass media is already rife with messages about healthy white bodies. check out the controversy over images of white bodies in yoga magazines, for example. do a google image search of men's health or fitness magazine and notice the ratio of white people to people of color on the magazine covers. now do a google image search for "healthy body." holy white people!
even the OrganWise curriculum does not escape this bias. in what is otherwise a racially-neutral book that uses the OrganWise guys as characters to teach children how to choose a variety of colors in their diet, Concentrating on Fruits and Veggies culminates in a dismaying treasure at the end of the fruit and vegetable rainbow: a healthy white body. the final image shows a cartoon outline of a healthy body, with happy OrganWise guys inside, colored light peach. why?
health issues related to poor eating and exercise habits affect all children in this country; however, according to the CDC Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, rates of cardiovascular disease are significantly higher for african americans. likewise, diabetes affects first nation peoples, hispanic people and african american people at higher rates than white people.
all children can benefit from the OrganWise program or any health/nutritional curriculum, but statistically speaking, health and nutrition does discriminate. furthermore, white children will inevitably receive messages about having a healthy body from an abundance of pop culture images and narratives. given the relative scarcity of images of healthy bodies available for children who do not identify as white, why not leave that silhouette of a healthy body at the end of the rainbow racially-ambiguous by choosing purple or blue, or all of the colors of the rainbow? better yet, why not always choose an image or doll that represents a person of color when appealing to a mixed group of children? no one needs to be reminded of what a healthy white body looks like.