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Allegrante Appears Before Congress to Advance Health Education

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Allegrante Appears Before Congress to Advance Health Education

Professor John Allegrante

John Allegrante, Professor of Health Education and President and CEO of the National Center for Health Education (NCHE), appeared before the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies in April. What follows are excerpts of his testimony.

Allegrante said, "I am here today to testify on behalf of the National Center for Health Education about the critical need to advance universal implementation nationwide of coordinated school health programs and comprehensive health education, and to request that money be appropriated in FY 2003 that will support increased funding of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH)."

"Mr. Chairman," Allegrante said, "perhaps more than at any other time in our nation's history, children and adolescents in our society are facing challenges that can have a profound impact on health. Data from the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey and other studies have shown that:

  • Fifty-three percent of high school students in the U.S. are sexually active; each year, 1 million teenagers become pregnant while another 3 million are infected with sexually transmitted diseases.

  • More than 3,000 young people begin smoking each day.

  • Two-thirds of eighth-graders have experimented with alcohol and 28 percent have been drunk at least once.

  • Twenty-two percent of ninth-grate students report carrying a weapon to school in the previous month, with 135,000 bringing a gun to school every day; violent homicide is now the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 24.

  • Motor vehicle accidents result in over 30 percent of the deaths among people 1 to 24."

    "What I and those of us at NCHE find so disturbing about this is that something can be done."

    "NCHE's Growing Healthy®, a comprehensive school health education curriculum for grades K-6, helps young people acquire self-esteem and decision-making skills to confront the critical health issues that face them. Over the past 25 years, Growing Healthy has reached over five million students in 15,000 schools in more than 40 states in the U.S. and Canada. Through a federally-funded cooperative agreement that enables NCHE to work in partnership with CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, we also are currently working with teachers, parents, and school leaders across America to coordinate the development of school health councils that can contribute to building community capacity for healthy schools."

    "In FY 2001, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provided 21 states with support to implement coordinated school health programs. These programs resulted in improvements to the school health environment in schools, including healthier food choices and tobacco-free schools. Yet, none of these 21 states have had sufficient funds to implement effective programs such as NCHE's Growing Healthy, and many states receive no funding."

    "In my view, we need to do more. Independent surveys have demonstrated that the public supports school health programs; a 1999 Gallup poll found 7 of 10 adults rated health information as important for students to learn before graduating from high school. School health programs have the potential to reach 53 million young people in schools across America and have been demonstrated in at least one study to be cost-effective in promoting healthy behaviors. That is why the National Center for Health Education supports a FY 2003 appropriation of $35 million for the CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health program, separate from HIV/AIDS funding. This $25 million increase would allow full funding for six to nine new state programs and the expansion of the 21 existing programs."

    In closing, Allegrante said, Mr. Chairman, "I believe that, when it comes to the health of our children, the diagnosis is clear and a treatment is at readily hand. Expanding funding of school health programs is a prescription for the health of our children, one that will ensure our nation's future. It is a prescription that this committee should write for the American people."

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