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School & Health: Our Nation's Investment
sustained throughout adulthood. A sedentary life-style in adults is associated with higher risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and certain cancers; evidence also suggests that physical activity may reduce risks for osteoporosis and obesity and relieve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression (CDC, 1997).
Health Education. Health education consists of a planned, sequential, developmentally appropriate K–12 curriculum that deals with the physical, mental, emotional, and social dimensions of health, provided by qualified teachers prepared to teach the subject. The goal of health education is to empower students with the necessary knowledge and skills to maintain and improve their health, adopt healthful behaviors, avoid health-threatening behaviors, and become health literate consumers and decisionmakers. The CDC's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS)8 examined the most commonly required topics in health education across the country; these findings are shown in Table 3-10 (see Chapter 3). SHPPS found that a large majority of schools require instruction in such areas as the prevention of alcohol and other drug use, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and tobacco use; dietary behaviors and nutrition; human growth and development; and human sexuality.
Issues in health education are complicated, and national consensus is slow to emerge on the position of health education in the overall curriculum. Questions continue to be raised about what topics should be taught in health education, who should teach them and when, how conflicts over controversial topics can be resolved, and what outcomes can reasonably be expected and measured. These questions are considered in Chapters 3 and 6.
Other Curricular Areas. Other subject matter areas—home economics, science, mathematics, language arts, social studies, visual and performing arts, vocational education—can use health-related topics to reinforce the school health message and also capture student interest in these other subjects. Health topics seem relevant to students, whereas other academic
The School Health Policies and Programs Study was carried out in 1994 to examine policies and programs across multiple components of school health programs at the state, district, school, and classroom levels. The October 1995 issue of the Journal of School Health is devoted to a summary report of SHPPS findings and includes separate analyses of school health education (Collins et al., 1995); school physical education (Pate et al., 1995); school health services (Small et al., 1995); school health services (Small et al., 1995); school foodservice (Pateman et al., 1995); and school health policies prohibiting tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, and violence (Ross et al., 1995).