By Daniella Orihuela

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well being for all, at all ages

Everyday we make choices that shape our current and future health, wellbeing, and happiness. Though often ingrained, these choices—from diet to exercise to connecting with others—are also malleable. Informal education programs and cultural centers such as the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, through their emphasis on interactive learning, can help the community identify their daily choices and understand the ramifications and options.

Our MeLaB exhibition at the new Frost Science, opening in downtown Miami’s Museum Park in early 2017, is being specifically designed and built to create a social and physical environment that promotes healthier behaviors around diet, exercise, sleep and relaxation, social connectivity, and learning. These five subject areas come together to provide the visitor with a well-rounded outlook to health and wellbeing.

In the MeLaB exhibition, YOU become the experiment as you investigate how everyday decisions affect your physical and mental health through hands-on challenges and digital interactive simulations. For example, research shows that the average person makes more than 200 decisions, such as how much and what food to eat, each day. At the exhibit’s Eat Zone, you might learn that food is fuel for your body, then play Plan a Plate, where you fill a plate for an avatar. In the end, you might be surprised about how your choices affected your avatar’s health.

At the Move Zone, an interactive dance floor can teach you and your friends some new steps and even measure step accuracy and how many calories you burned. Each individual’s steps are also added to an ongoing group tally that equals steps to nearby destinations. We estimate that visitors can reach a distance equivalent to walking from the new museum located in downtown Miami to Key Biscayne’s beaches in just 25,000 steps, and collectively our guests could take enough steps in 10 months to reach a distance equivalent to walking around the equator.

Research on health literacy, health promotion, and improving patient outcomes shows that having a companion, even in the form of a digital friend, can help generate and maintain motivation and engagement when it comes to health education and behavior modification. At the exhibit, you will get the opportunity to create and personalize your own digital character (known as a Beta) to accompany you through your MeLaB experience. No Beta is truly the same, as you can customize color, size, shape, and facial features. As you explore, you can check in at a Beta Station where you answer questions about your habits and see what the latest science has to say about your choices. As an incentive, you can accessorize your Beta further by continuing to provide responses. The more you respond, the more accessories you earn for your Beta. Imagine your own personal Beta with a pillow, running shoes, or even a chef’s hat!

We will aggregate all data collected from guests and create visual displays as part of the experience. Ultimately, this will create a vibrant and dynamic profile of the community’s health and preferences. This data collection infrastructure also supports an impact assessment project that will target over 25,0000 Miami-Dade County Public Schools fourth-grade students.

This new exhibition supports the need to include museums and science centers in the plan to address many of the public health challenges that our society faces today. MeLaB recognizes the interrelation between our biology, environment, and behavior and how our uniqueness means that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription to leading a healthy and happy life. In reality, it is through continuous development of self-awareness, adaptation, motivation, and even a little trial-and-error that allows each of us to find what works best for us.