( – promoted by OKWatchdog)
Sometime this week, likely tomorrow, the state House of Representatives will consider House Bill 1530, a bill to require a semester of health education in middle school.
Although you’ve likely heard all this before, our state’s dismal health indicators are what really drive this bill.
Oklahoma is one of the nation’s least-healthy states. We rank dead last in heart disease, mental illness and nutrition. We rank 44th in health insurance coverage, 47th in exercise and 47th in tobacco use.
Some things to keep in mind, according to the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy:
* The respected UnitedHealth Foundation annual survey ranked Oklahoma 49th in the overall health of its residents in 2009.
* Since 1990, the prevalence of obesity has risen from 11.6 percent of the population to 30.9 percent. More than one-quarter of the state’s population smokes tobacco.
* Health-related factors, such as hunger and chronic illness, can lead to poor performance in school. Health-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse and poor diets, are consistently linked to academic failure.
* Poor health rankings make it difficult for businesses to recruit and retain talent, and for the state to recruit companies here. Healthy employees are more productive and miss less work. They also cost less in health insurance premiums. With 50 cents of every health care dollar being used to treat preventable diseases, there is an obvious need for greater responsibility and better lifestyle choices.
* Which brings us back to education. In order to make good choices, Oklahomans need to know what their choices are and know their consequences.
* The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend comprehensive health education in grades K-12.
* In 2008 the P.E. requirement was expanded to include health and nutrition education, and additional P.E. However, there is no such requirement in the upper grades.
If improving Oklahomans’ health depends on individual choices, they, in turn, depend on knowledge. Yet too many Oklahomans lack knowledge of health, nutrition, tobacco, violence and other matters that influence health.
Oklahoma is one of only two states to have no requirement in public schools for health education. State academic standards provide a comprehensive outline of the components of health education at every grade level, but only about half of the state’s school districts offer any type of physical education, health and nutrition classes in upper grades.
HB 1530 will:
* Require districts to provide a minimum of one semester of health education in grades 6, 7 or 8, beginning in the 2011-12 school year.
* Provides for topics to be determined by local districts, including physical activity, nutrition, drug abuse prevention, oral health, environmental health, growth and development, injury prevention, bullying prevention and wellness.
* Encourages school districts to work with community organizations, including county health departments, local hospitals, county extension offices and others with proven expertise, to provide materials, resources and personnel. Parents may opt their children out of any or all of the health education curriculum.
This bill was the leading measure from the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy’s Fall Forum. Legislators’ concerns should be allayed by the floor substitute. Also, there are floor amendments to the bill from Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Coody. Rep. Kern’s amendment requires schools to notify parents which community-based organizations will assist teaching the curriculum. Rep. Coody’s amendment allows schools who don’t have a teacher certified in health education to delay implementation until the 2013-14 school year.
Organizations that support HB1530 include the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition and the Oklahoma Public Health Association.