The School Health Education Study + 50 Years-What It Looked like Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Gus T. Dalis, EdD

By McDermott, Robert J. | American Journal of Health Education, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

The School Health Education Study + 50 Years-What It Looked like Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Gus T. Dalis, EdD


McDermott, Robert J., American Journal of Health Education


ABSTRACT

The School Health Education Study (SHES) had a dynamic group of team members who forged one of the most monumental initiatives in the history of school health education. Gus T. Dalis was a member of that team and is the sole surviving co-author of the documents that emanated from the SHES. After an informal conversation together at the March 2011 AAHPERD Conference in San Diego, he and I agreed upon a plan to talk in a more disciplined fashion about the SHES and his recollection of its behind-the-scenes dynamics. We spoke by telephone for more than an hour on June 8, 2011. During the interview, Gus offered his candid, and sometime humorous insights, about the SHES' challenges, its participants, and its leadership. The transcript of that interview, graciously transcribed by University of South Florida College of Public Health student, Alyssa B. Mayer, appears below.

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[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

RJM: Kali mera, Gus. Ti kanis?

GTD: Ime kala, efharisto.

RJM: I really enjoyed the conversation that we had in San Diego, and I wish I had had a tape recorder then ... and by the way, there's hardly any agenda for this dialogue so feel free to tell me anything you'd like. Let's get right into it, though. Tell me about SHES.

GTD: There were different phases of the SHES. There was the synthesis of research that took place.

RJM: Right.

GTD: Then there was the study, the SHES which was a randomized sample of small, medium and large school districts from across the country that was identified by the National Education Association (NEA), through their offices, and Elena [Sliepcevich] was stationed there in the NEA, which at that time was on M Street in Washington D.C., so she used her charm and got them to identify a random sample. What they wanted to do in that study was to find out what was being taught in the name of health education, who was teaching it, how often it was taught, etc.--things like that. Next, they wanted to find out what kids knew about health, felt about health and did about health.

RJM: Right, the old knowledge, attitudes and practices!

GTD: And that was kind of a foundation for the curriculum phase that unfolded afterwards. And, there were many people involved in that particular study.

RJM: Well, right, Bill Creswell, for one, was on that committee.

GTD: Right, and those two products or programs or studies if you will, the synthesis of research trying to look at what did they know about health education, you know, what works, what doesn't work, etc. That coupled with a later study that was the status study to find out again, I said, who was teaching it, what was being taught in the name of health education, how often was it taught etc. I remember one outcome of that was that nutrition was being taught ad nauseum, they were teaching the same thing over and over again. They were teaching the basic four food groups; that was the big thing you know and kids got that year-after-year-after-year. That's what that revealed. But, the next phase is when I got involved, they identified the findings of the study and went to the Bronfman Foundation.

RJM: The [Samuel F.] Bronfman Foundation put up $200,000.

GTD: Yes, the Bronfman Foundation, they were the Seagram's people, the distillers of whiskey.

RJM: The $200,000 was not a lot of money even by 1960s standards, but it would be about $1.45 million in today's dollars. I don't know if we could repeat that for less than $1.5 million today.

GTD: No, probably not.

RIM: So, the next phase was actually seeing what kids knew, right?

GTD: Right, she (Elena) used that as leverage, the findings that is; those two pieces of work, to go forward and propose what was approved as a curriculum project; the idea would be to identify the structure of health education, and so they formed a writing team and identified people at the end of 1963 to staff it. …

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