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CDC Releases a Comic Book

Posted in Food Safety on November 10, 2018

As someone with grown children and young grandchildren, I have witnessed in my lifetime the ebb and flow of education. What was once important has been tossed by the wayside while other educational pursuits are followed. I am in no way condemning the education system but am simply stating I have seen changes happen – both good and bad. One such good one: The CDC Comic Book.

One such change has been in teaching the younger generations about food safety. Be it for the lack of enthusiasm in the teachers or a lack of interesting and exciting curriculum, food safety information is almost gone. Even when I was in school, food safety was touched on only briefly. I have noticed a trend lately in more people, schools, and organizations waking up to food safety and ways to battle disease.

Last month, a joint effort led by the CDC, USDA, and 4-H launched the first ever comic book designed to not only engage kids to not only learn about food safety but have fun doing it. If you’re thinking: “I wish I would have had something this awesome when I was a kid,” you’re not alone.

So what is this new venture into food safety? Don’t worry; I am not going to spoil the ending. You will need to go download it for FREE and find out yourself. What I want to do is tantalize your curiosity as mine was. I took time to read the whole comic and I think you will too.

The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak is a graphic novel trying to raise awareness in a fun and informative way. By teaching kids about infectious diseases and the risk they pose, this joint effort plans on reaching more of the public than ever. Yes, I said ‘public’ as in us adults too. There was a time in my life I avidly collected comic books. I bought and sold almost daily, making quite a lot of money. Honestly, I still have a trunk in my mother’s basement full of them.

The adventure begins with the cast of characters at a 4-H meeting. They are planning a trip to the CDC Headquarters in Atlanta and along the way imagining themselves as superheroes battling viruses, diseases, and germs. Each character chooses a different superhero-type persona and gives a brief story about what they are doing and why. Wonderful writing and beautiful drawings pull you into the story from the beginning. The story continues with the kids at a local fair; enjoying the rides, food, and animals. Everyone is having a great time.

Those of us who have done the research and have knowledge of food safety can spot what the kids are doing wrong (which is a good thing) but the story compels us to keep watching. This is why I continually promote knowing and understanding food safety and how to avoid it: you never know when it will save your life.

One of the kids, sick with fever, has to stay home from the field trip and tries to talk his mother into letting him go to no avail. Arriving at the CDC, the rest of the group have the opportunity to learn more about what the CDC does, public health matters, and who the CDC works with concerning outbreaks. During their tour, the other member of the group who stayed home sick goes to the hospital.

The rest of the story and what happens to the boy in the hospital you will have to read for yourself. This is exciting work and I know you will enjoy it. Once you download this free comic and read it, pass it along.

Everyone has a favorite comic book character. Come on, don’t be shy. If you haven’t read comics, how many of us have watched a movie (since they are flooded into the movie market lately) about Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, or the Avengers? My mother-in-law sports a Captain America sticker on her car and wears her Wonder Woman shirt with pride. What better way to reach the public with important food safety information than through this medium. I can’t wait to see where this series goes and I hope they come out faster than movies do.

Taking this comic book concept to a higher level, there is better news if you are a teacher: downloadable classroom activities. From the CDC website: “The graphic novel and its associated educational activities are part of a broader CDC initiative with USDA and other agricultural partners to raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of a One Health approach to zoonotic disease prevention and response.” Everywhere you look there are outbreaks occurring and the more information we have the better we are prepared to stay healthy.

The activity downloads are free to use and are geared toward middle and high school ages. The two links below are right to the activities but it is also worth noting the CDC website will be uploading more activities in the future, so check back often.

Educational overview

Activity 1

When I first learned about The Junior Detectives: Operation Outbreak Graphic Novel, I immediately thought about my own knowledge of the comic industry. Over the past few years, the comic industry has seen growth each year except 2017. There are many that theorize as to why this is and if that interests you take a look. My understanding is even though digital media has taken over; there is still a purist view when it comes to certain things like the printed word. This has helped the comic industry thrive where other printed forms have declined. So what better venue to reach an audience than one that continues to see record sales? What better way to inform people about the dangers we discuss here and face every day than to present them in a way that is fun yet informative.

By reaching a younger crowd, maybe we can help them make safer choices when it comes to the food they eat and how they view food safety. I like to take every opportunity I have to tell my friends and family about food safety and share things I have learned. I hope you do too.

Give this new venture into educating people about food safety a look. Then pass it on so others can enjoy.

Let me know what you think.

By: Dwight Spencer, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)