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Health Talk for Teens


Prentice Hall - Health

John Allegrante has written an "action textbook" on teen health.

By his own admission, John Allegrante is not "a dispassionate scholar who writes only for my fellow academics."

While Allegrante, Professor of Health Education, has written many scholarly and scientific articles, he is also a frequent contributor to the op-ed and letters-to-the-editor columns of mainstream newspapers and more education-focused publications such as Education Week.

A few years ago, while wearing his other hat (President and CEO of the National Center for Health Education), he testified before Congress on the need for more funding for coordinated school health programs. And just recently, while lecturing as the Ann Nolte Visiting Professor at Illinois State University, Allegrante appeared on the local National Public Radio station to discuss a favorite topic: the growing (and he does mean "growing") unfitness of Americans, particularly the nation's youth.

"America's children and adolescents are getting fat," says Allegrante. "That has consequences for their ability to learn-'"studies have made direct connections between brain development, classroom performance and physical activity. And we're seeing all kinds of new health problems because of it. Take Type 2, or what's normally called -'adult-onset' diabetes. That was something you pretty much only saw in middle-aged adults, and now there's a major increase of a new diagnoses among children and adolescents. The implications for our health care system and budget down the road are staggering. Yet schools are pulling back on health education as they struggle to meet standardized testing performance targets, particularly since No Child Left Behind was enacted."

All of which explains why Allegrante now has co-authored what he calls "an action text book" on health aimed at teen-agers-'"a colorful, down-to-earth volume that covers topics ranging from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections to making healthy eating choices, using medicines correctly and expressing anger in healthy ways.

Titled simply Health, the book - which was written with B. E. Pruitt of Texas A&M University and Deborah Prothrow-Stith of the Harvard School of Public Health - was published in February by Pearson Prentice Hall. The book accompanies the "Teens Talk" classroom video series, produced in cooperation with Discovery Education.

The book offers test prep sections that ask questions like, "What are cluster suicides and what can be done to prevent them?"; offers strategies for refusing an alcoholic drink proffered by peers; features writing assignments in which teens analyze product advertisements that "take advantage of a teen's search for self"; and explains the difference between pathogens and other microorganisms.

Each chapter includes a "Building Health Skills" section that poses hypothetical challenges - water in school fountains that tastes or smells unpleasant, balancing a family budget in the face of rising health care costs, how to deal with an open fracture - and a vocabulary review of terms like "pre-adolescent" and "side effects." There are also lists of health agencies and community resources. Students can also go online at a special Web site for further information and resources.

"This is truly about promoting healthy behavior to young people as a life-long project, using language they best understand and respond to," Allegrante says. "It's new territory for me. I pride myself on writing accessibly, but when I sat down with the editors at Pearson Prentice Hall to go over some of the earliest chapters, my ego was bruised! They revised almost everything. But, I now see what it was that the editors needed to do to make my writing relevant for the average American adolescent, and I'm really pleased with the result."

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