Health Education in District Schools is Long Overdue

Health Standards Hearing-11.28.07
Nov. 28, 2007 – Parents, young people, medical
professionals, and local HIV/health/youth advocacy groups expressed strong
support for the draft Health Learning Standards. (Photo: Fight HIV in DC)

Yesterday, Washington Grantmakers and the Washington AIDS Partnership signed a letter supporting the permanent adoption of the D.C. State Board of Education’s draft academic standards for health education. These standards—which include comprehensive information on nutrition, sexual health, and HIV prevention—will determine the scope of health education in all of D.C.’s Public Schools. The letter was written by the D.C. Healthy Youth Coalition, which includes over 25 local organizations, and presented to the D.C. State Board of Education at a public hearing last night.

Over 100 supporters attended, and, of the 32 people who testified, a strong majority favored making the draft standards permanent. The hearing opened with testimony from the D.C. chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association, Children’s National Medical Center and a national health education expert. All supported the new health education standards. Two youth (including a young man from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council) also testified in favor.

Your turn to testify
Nov. 30 (tomorrow) is the last day D.C. residents may voice their recommendations on the draft guidelines. Health education is an excellent way to promote healthy behaviors among the 50,000 students in the District’s public schools. The standards specify what students should know and be able to do to improve and maintain their health by the end of each grade level.

Why are standards urgently needed? 
D.C. has high HIV rates among youth and one of the highest adolescent obesity rates in the country. While the poor health outcomes for D.C. young people are well-documented, the quality of health education in our public schools, including topics such as nutrition and reproductive health, is inconsistent and often quite poor. Lacking crucial information to protect themselves, many young people in D.C. engage in risky behavior.  

According to the most recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, over half of D.C. public high school students and 30 percent of middle school students report being sexually active, yet roughly 15 percent of high school students and over 20 percent of middle school students report that they have never been taught anything about AIDS or HIV in school.

* Washington AIDS Partnership
* Metro Teen AIDS