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Weighing In on Our Unfit Youth

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Health

John Allegrante, Deborah Prothrow-Stith and B.E. Pruitt, (Teachers College Press, 2006)

TC Professor of Health Education John Allegrante, an outspoken advocate for children's physical fitness, has co-authored what he describes as an "action text book" on health that's aimed at teenagers.

Titled simply Health, the book--written with B.E. Pruitt of Texas A&M University and Deborah Prothrow-Stith of the Harvard School of Public Health--offers test prep sections that ask questions like, " What are cluster suicides and what can be done to prevent them?"; suggests 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--an open fracture; water in school drinking fountains that tastes or smells unpleasant; balancing a family budget in the face of rising health-care costs--and offers a vocabulary review of terms such as "pre-adolescent" and "side effects." Why worry about the health smarts of young people?

Studies connect physical activity with brain development and class room performance. The implications for the nation's health-care system of ignoring those findings are staggering. Or as Allegrante himself might put it, inaction - and ignorance - would be decidedly unhealthy.

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