PENNSYLVANIA LAW THE FIRST TO REQUIRE TRAINING ON SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST IN STUDENTS — A new Pennsylvania law is the first in the country that designates training and standards to prevent sudden heart attacks in students 
and student athletes. The measure requires coaches, game officials, and athletic trainers to watch for signs of sudden cardiac arrest among players. Signs these adults must be trained to watch for include fainting, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and chest pain. Student athletes must be removed from games and will not be allowed to compete again without clearance from an appropriate health care practitioner. Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer (5/31/12), Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (10/11)

SEX EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS DECLINING NATIONWIDE — A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found the teaching of sex education in middle and high schools has decreased nationwide. The study of 45 states compiled surveys of principals and health teachers about how often sex ed is taught in classrooms. In 2010, the percentage of middle schools teaching 11 topics pertaining to sex education decreased in 11 states and increased in none when compared with 2008 data. The sex education curricula used also exposed differences across the states as to what was allowed and what was not allowed to be taught in the classroom. Source:  Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (4/6/12)

TENNESSEE GOV. SIGNS “GATEWAY SEXUAL ACTIVITY” LAW — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a controversial sex-education law that bars teachers from encouraging so-called “gateway” activities that fall short of intercourse. The measure also allows parents to sue contracted groups or individuals who do not obey this law. School personnel, however, are exempt from such litigation. Critics contend the law is so vague in its definition of what “gateway sexual activity” is, it could be a prior restraint on teachers from holding open discussions in sex education or health classes. Supporters said the law helps clarify the definition of abstinence. Source: Tennesseean (5/12/12)

DECLINE IN FEMALES COMPLETING HPV VACCINATION — Even as recommendations released earlier this year call for boys to be vaccinated against human papilloma virus,  a study in the journal Cancer found fewer girls are completing the three-shot series of the HPV vaccine. A study of 272,000 privately insured females who began the series revealed the percentage of females who got all three shots decreased from 50 percent in 2006 to just over 20 percent in 2009. The study also found that girls 13 and older were less likely to complete the three-shot series than girls aged 9 to 12. Obstetricians/gynecologists were more likely to have administered the three-shot series than pediatricians. The HPV vaccine aids in lowering the risk of contracting cervical cancer and has been deemed only effective when the three-shot series is completed. Sources: Washington Post (5/3/12), Cancer (4/27/12)

ASTHMA MEDICATION TO BE AVAILABLE IN MISSOURI SCHOOLS — School nurses in Missouri would be able to keep asthma medication on hand under legislation awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature. School districts would be responsible for purchasing the medication and nurses responsible for its storage at schools. The bill passed the state’s House and Senate with only one opposing vote. Source: News Tribune (Jefferson City) (5/10/12)

STRUCTURED HEALTHY PLAY CAN REDUCE BULLYING, IMPROVE EDUCATION OUTCOMES — Structured healthy play at school can reduce bullying, improve behavior, and increase students’ learning time in the classroom, according to a joint study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University. The study measured the effects of the Playworks recess program in several schools while comparing the results to schools that decided to defer participation for one year. The findings showed a decline in bullying, improvement in behavior during recess and in the classroom, and better school climates overall. Teachers reported that students felt safer and more a part of the school community. They also said Playworks helped students transition from recess to formal instruction more quickly and easily (an outcome that researchers noted as statistically significant). The study results coupled with existing data reaffirm the importance of physical activity on students’ mental and physical health. The Playworks model is being used in more than 300 schools in 23 cities. Source: Education Week (4/17/12), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (4/16/12)

MORE TEENS POSTPONING SEX THAN BEFORE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that since 1995, more U.S. teens are postponing sex, and more teens who do have sex are using contraceptives. The study found that from 2006-10, 57 percent of girls aged 15-19 had never had sex compared to 49 percent in 1995.  In addition, the study found approximately 60 percent of girls aged 15-19 used a form of hormonal contraceptive. However, disparities still remain in safe sex practices, with 66 percent of white teens using contraception compared to 46 percent African-Americans and 54 percent Hispanics. Researchers made their determinations based on data collected from the National Survey of Family Growth in 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010. Sources: NY Daily News (5/4/12), CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (5/4/12)

VACCINATION RATES HIGHER WHEN REQUIRED BY STATES — A recent study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that vaccination rates among students are greater when states require inoculations as a condition of middle school enrollment than not. While that might seem obvious, the collective vaccination rate in states with immunization mandates for pertussis, meningitis, and tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (TdaP) in 2008-09 were only 70-80 percent. The study also found no increase in vaccination rates in states that only required schools to send educational materials home to parents and caregivers. However, since the data was collected, 21 states have changed their TdaP vaccination laws, and another six have made meningitis inoculations mandatory. Source: Los Angeles Times (5/7/12) 

PUBLIC WANTS NATIONAL LIMITS ON CALORIES AND FAT IN SCHOOL FOOD — poll by the Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project shows most of American voters think there should be national standards limiting calories, fat, and sodium in the foods sold on school campuses. For now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can only set standards for the reimbursable meals under the national school breakfast and lunch programs. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, passed by Congress in December 2010, broadened this authority to all food sold on the school campus, including vending machines, school stores, and à la carte lines. USDA is expected to publish a set of standards for these competitive foods at the beginning of the summer. The Kids’ Safe & Healthful Foods Project is a joint initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A related report in the Journal of Academy and Nutrition indicates less than 5 percent of U.S. school districts require competitive foods and drinks sold on campus to meet all of the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Researchers at Bridging the Gap, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, report district policies most commonly address fat content but focus less on sugar. Additionally, many limit access to soda for all grade levels, but few address other sugary drinks or high-fat milks. Sources: Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project press release (4/19/12), Robert Wood Johnson Foundation press release (4/20/12)

SCHOOLS VITAL TO NATIONAL OBESITY PREVENTION STRATEGIES — Making schools a national focal point for obesity prevention is one of just five goals outlined in a new Institute of Medicine report, Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention. The report outlines a plan to prevent obesity across all sectors of society over the next decade and builds on the recommendations made in the 2005 report, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. The report was released May 8 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weight of the Nation conference, held in Washington, DC and the process of creating the report is highlighted in a recent HBO documentary series of the same name, which can be viewed free online.

SCHOOLS BUYING MORE FRESH  PRODUCE, LOWER-SUGAR DRINKS — The USDA reports schools are now devoting more of their budgets to the purchase of fresh produce and replacing fruit drinks and carbonated beverage purchases with fruit juice and water than in the past. The findings from 2009-10 school year data are part of the Department’s third School Food Purchase Study, which provides national estimates of the type and cost of foods purchased by public schools that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. The first two editions culled data during the 1984-85 and 1996-97 school years, respectively.

 

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NEW RESOURCE ADDRESSES LINKS BETWEEN OBESITY AND PUBLIC SAFETY — A new brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Leadership for Healthy Communities program – “Making the Connection: Linking Policies to Improve Public Safety with Preventing Childhood Obesity” – helps policymakers connect these seemingly disparate problems through the establishment of policies that can alleviate both public health concerns.

INCREASED USDA SCHOOL FOOD REIMBURSEMENT RULE OPEN FOR PUBLIC COMMENT — The USDA is accepting public comment on an interim rule on the process for state agencies to certify districts as compliant with the new federal school meal regulations in order to receive an additional six-cent reimbursement per meal. Comments on the rule will be accepted until June 26.

NEW RESOURCES TO HELP SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES SHARE RECREATIONAL SPACE — Two national public health law organizations and a leading research organization have separately created tools for education policymakers to use when creating joint use agreements.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research’s “Promoting Physical Activity through the Shared Use of School and Community Recreational Resources” is a research brief that highlights these policies as a way to increase physical activity by providing access to safe recreational opportunities, particularly in communities with limited resources. The Public Health Law Center’s Finding Space to Play: Legal and Policy Issues Impacting Community Recreational Use of School Property provides an overview of key concepts and success stories from the state and local levels. The National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity also released “Playing Smart: A New Guide to Help Communities Open the Schoolyards,” a toolkit designed to help school staff and community leaders create and implement joint use agreements.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ANNOUNCES FIRST EVER GREEN RIBBON SCHOOLS — The U.S. Department of Education announced the list of schools that have received Green Ribbon School recognition. In the pilot year, schools applied first to state departments of education, who then nominated schools to the federal agency. Schools received the designation for exemplary achievement in environmental impact, health, and education.