Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Forging Working Partnerships for School Health Education

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Forging Working Partnerships for School Health Education

Article excerpt

Forging Working Partnerships for School Health Education

Thank you for the distinct honor of being the guest lecturer for the 1988 John P. McGovern Award Lectureship in School Health. I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about partnerships. As you are well aware, schools play a vital role in protecting and improving the health of our nation's children. I did not come to tell you that. It was you and your predecessors who wanted vaccines for the infectious diseases that disfigured, debilitated, and killed millions. And once those vaccines were discovered, you and your predecessors facilitated mass immunization efforts.

As a result, today in the United States few people have suffered the ravages of once common diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria, pertussis, and polio. Now, these immunizations that are given to children also improve the health of adults, because once children are immunized against these infectious diseases, they remain protected, generally, over the course of their lives. It is important to remember when talking about school health, whether it's immunizations or other principles, that school health not only helps children, but it affects the health of those children for as long as they live. I would like to illustrate that.

Today, young people face health problems very different from the ones their counterparts faced before we developed vaccines. Today, about three-quarters of all deaths among young Americans result from four causes -- motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, and injury sustained from events other than motor vehicles.

We now have a vaccine that could prevent fully half of these needless deaths. The vaccine -- wearing seat belts and seeing that children are buckled up. It is a different kind of vaccine, but potentially just as effective if used. Another vaccine that could reduce an enormous amount of death, disability, and disfigurement from vehicle collisions is convincing people not to drink or use drugs and drive.

Findings from the National Adolescent Student Health Survey (NASHS) revealed that 60% of all eighth and 10th grade students in the United States did not wear seat belts, and 40% rode during the past month with a driver who had been drinking or using drugs. Indeed, alcohol and drug abuse exact a horrendous toll on the well-being and productivity of young people, and contribute heavily to homicide, suicide, and injury other than motor vehicle.

The NASHS found that about 30% of eighth and 10th grade students reported

consuming five or more drinks on one occasion in the two weeks prior to the survey. About 10% of eighth and 10th grade students reported they had tried cocaine, 20% had tried inhalants, and 25% had tried marijuana. We need to develop and distribute a persuasive vaccine that might convince these kids it is not in their best interest to abuse alcohol and other drugs.

Our young people also suffer terribly and needlessly from sexual behaviors that result in unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, the newest and perhaps most devastating of which is AIDS or HIV infection. The NASHS revealed about one-half of eighth and 10th grade students believed it is acceptable for people their age to have sex with someone they have dated for a long time. However, more than one-half do not know that taking birth control pills is ineffective in avoiding sexually transmitted diseases.

Can we, then, develop and disseminate a vaccine that would help our youth develop values, knowledge, skills, and social support? They need to avoid sexual behaviors that jeopardize their futures. Almost 60% of deaths that occur among all age groups combined in the United States result from two causes -- heart disease and cancer. Risk factors that contribute enormously to premature death and unnecessary illness from cancer and heart disease generally are established during childhood and youth. …

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