NORTH CAROLINA MAKES CPR TRAINING A GRADUATION REQUIREMENT — A new law in North Carolina makes passing a CPR training course a graduation requirement for high school students, starting with the graduating class of 2015 (this year’s sophomores). CPR training has been required for high school graduation in North Carolina since 1997, but it has never been enforced. North Carolina is one of five states with such a requirement. Source: Associated Press (7/26/12) 

MARYLAND STATE BOARD OVERHAULS ZERO-TOLERANCE POLICIES — The Maryland State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to regulations that eliminate zero-tolerance policies and all other automatic consequences for student misconduct, especially for non-violent offenses. The board created new guidelines to ensure districts take a more evenhanded approach when making disciplinary decisions and provide more support for students when they are removed from school. Maryland’s policy also addresses racial disparities in school discipline, an action that goes further than most state initiatives. Under the new regulations, districts would have to track discipline data to ensure that minority and special education students are not unduly burdened with suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary sanctions. Districts will be given one year to reduce the number of disparities and three years to eliminate them altogether. The board will vote for final adoption of the regulations after the 30-day review period for public comment. Source: Washington Post (7/24/12)

In another effort to promote student health and safety, the state board adopted emergency regulations that require athletic coaches to receive training in identifying head injuries, including concussions. The new policy also requires an athlete who shows signs or symptoms of concussion to be removed from play. Source: Baltimore Sun (7/24/12) 

ARE TEAM SPORTS THE CURE FOR CHILDHOOD OBESITY? — Team sports are the most effective way to prevent childhood obesity, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers found that students who played on at least three different sports teams in the past 12 months were 27 percent less likely to be overweight and 39 percent less likely to be obese compared to students who did not participate in team activities. The study was based on interviews with 1,718 high school students from New Hampshire and Vermont about the number of sport teams they participated on, their involvement in extracurricular physical activities and physical education classes, and the number of days they walked or biked to school. The results were that playing team sports was the only form of physical activity that had an inverse relationship to weight and obesity. As such, the report urges schools to prioritize sports teams for obesity prevention and increase opportunities for all adolescents to participate regardless of their ability. They estimate that playing two or more team sports per year would decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity by 26.1 percent. No relationship was found between weight and participation in high school physical education, which supports previous research. Sources: Education Week (7/17/12), Pediatrics (7/16/12)

SCHOOL COUNSELORS REPORT LITTLE TRAINING AND FEW PROCEDURES ON DATING ABUSE — A study published in the journal Pediatrics revealed that more than 80 percent of school counselors report not having procedures in their schools to deal with dating violence. The random survey of 550 counselors nationwide also determined that 90 percent of them had no staff training in the last two years on how to help victims of such abuses even though more than 60 percent of the counselors reported they have dealt with teen dating violence issues in that time. Further, about 75 percent of respondents said their schools did not have a staff committee to address student health and safety issues. Source: Pediatrics (August 2012) 

NEW DATA HIGHLIGHTS TRENDS IN SEXUAL RISK BEHAVIORS AMONG U.S. ADOLESCENTS — Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows fewer U.S. high school students are engaging in sexual behaviors that put them at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. This data comes from a review of CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from 1991-2011. The 20-year trend analysis showed that while African-American youth had the greatest decline in sexual risk behavior, they are still reporting higher levels of such behavior than their peers in other demographic groups. Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (7/27/12) 

URBAN CHILDREN MORE LIKELY TO SUFFER FROM FOOD ALLERGIES — A study in the journal Clinical Pediatrics reports that children who live in urban areas are much more likely to have food allergies than peers in rural areas. Researchers used surveys of more than 38,000 children aged 18 years and younger to map food allergies by ZIP code and determined that almost 10 percent of urban children have some kind of food allergy, while about 6 percent of rural-dwelling children have such conditions. Urban children are more than twice as likely to have peanut or shellfish allergies than rural children. Overall, nearly 40 percent of those surveyed nationwide have had some severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to a food. Georgia, Florida, New Jersey, Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have the greatest percentages of children with food allergies. Sources: Science Daily (6/7/12), Clinical Pediatrics (5/17/12) 

FEWER LOW-INCOME STUDENTS RECEIVE SUMMER MEALS — The Food Research and Action Center’s (FRAC) annual summer nutrition report finds only one in seven students who receive free or reduced-price meals as part of the National School Lunch Program may participate in the similar national Summer Nutrition Program.  Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, compiled using July 2011 data about summer program participation, indicates a declining trend from past years. FRAC indicates that the recession and poor economic conditions led to more students depending on school meals, as well as a decrease in the availability of summer schools and youth programs that typically provide meals during the summer. The report also notes that performance varied widely across states, with a handful actually reporting an increase in participation rates. Source: FRAC press release (6/8/12) 

FRIEND GROUPS DETERMINE STUDENT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LEVELS — A recent study in Pediatrics by researchers at Vanderbilt University found a large link between activity levels and elementary school friend groups. Accelerometers were used to measure the physical activity levels of 81 racially diverse 5- to 12-year-old students on the playground during afterschool programs over three weeks in the spring of 2010. Students were also asked with whom in the program they were friends. Though it was discovered friendships were not made or broken based on the activity levels of other students, researchers did find that when children made new friends, students would either increase or decrease their own activity levels to match others in the group. This study points to the possible effectiveness of leveraging peer relationships to increase the physical activity levels of all students during free play times. Source: Reuters (5/28/12), Pediatrics (June 2012) 

U.S. HOUSE URGES SCHOOLS TO PROVIDE WATER SAFETY EDUCATION — A U.S. House resolution called on elementary and secondary schools across the country to provide students with water safety education. The non-binding measure recognizes International Water Safety Day (May 15). Unintentional drowning is the second leading cause of death for children 1-14 years of age in the United States, and America’s child injury death rate ranks among the worst of all high-income countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Resolution 658 creates an opportunity for schools to help protect children from this preventable injury. Research shows that raising awareness and promoting water safety education can reduce the risk of drowning and lower the child injury death rate. Sources: H.Res.658 (5/15/12), CDC Vital Signs report (4/1/12) 

 

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NEW FACT SHEETS CAN HELP CREATE POLICIES THAT INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY OUTSIDE SCHOOL HOURS — Two new fact sheets from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research provide policymakers with information and recommendations for increasing physical activity in out-of-school time and afterschool programs. The fact sheets discuss research-based strategies such as creating joint use agreements that allow for community use of school grounds, and ensuring that afterschool programs are designed to incorporate recommended amounts of physical activity. They also summarize current findings and talk about successful policies that have already being implemented.

 

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO EDUCATE ABOUT THE SALE OF SNACK FOODS AT SCHOOL — As the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act continues to be implemented, new resources have been created to help policymakers understand the next big element—the initial creation of standards that cover all foods sold on the campus outside of the reimbursable school meal. A brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research and Bridging the Gap, Influence of Competitive Food and Beverage Policies on Children’s Diets and Childhood Obesity, discusses the influence of these foods on students’ diets. Additionally, the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Schools Project, a collaboration of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, released a health impact assessment that provides a detailed analysis of the potential impact of implementing competitive food standards on student health and school food program revenue.

Also created by Healthy Eating Research is Consumption of Sports Drinks by Children and Adolescents, a review of research about student consumption and the health implications of these items that now dominate many school vending machines.

HEALTH IMPACT ASSESSMENT RFP — The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, announced a call for proposals for grants to conduct health impact assessments (HIAs). HIAs identify and address the health impacts of decisions in other sectors.

The call for proposals will support two kinds of awards: demonstration project grants of up to $75,000, which will each fund a single HIA to inform a specific upcoming decision on a proposed policy, program, plan, or project; and HIA program grants of up to $250,000, which will allow organizations with prior experience to conduct at least two new HIAs and to develop stable HIA programs that endure beyond the conclusion of the grant period.

More information, including frequently asked questions, details about eligibility, and other resources are available at http://www.healthimpactproject.org/project/opportunities.