Health education in schools is essential to improving healthy behaviors in children. In July of 2017, the Utah State Board of Education voted to update the Core Standards for Health Education for the first time since 1997. The new standards have added lessons for kindergarten through second grade and address the following six strands:
- Health Foundations and Protective Factors of Healthy Self is intended to be the foundation of the Health Education Core. Protective factors are attributes such as skills, strengths, or coping strategies which increase the health and well-being of children. These attributes help people deal more effectively with stress, peer-pressure, and other potentially harmful situations. Students with strong protective factors are less likely to develop mental illness or substance use disorders.
- Mental and Emotional Health teaches students how to advocate for the mental and emotional health of self and others. Students will learn and adopt behaviors which will also maintain and enhance physical and social health. Strategies to help students manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are key components of this strand.
- Safety and Disease Prevention helps students understand their role in protecting themselves and others from unintentional danger, risk, injury, or disease. Students will learn and adopt behaviors which will maintain and enhance physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
- Substance Abuse Prevention promotes physical, mental and emotional, and social health by teaching students the knowledge and skills to make choices to avoid substance abuse. Students will practice resisting negative peer pressure, understand marketing tactics, and learn the benefits of a substance free lifestyle.
- Nutrition helps students understand the vital role food preparation and consumption will have on their health throughout their life. A healthy diet supports the immune system and reduces the occurrence of many diseases. Proper nutrition is linked to learning readiness, academic achievement and decreased discipline and emotional problems. Students will learn how to choose or obtain the food necessary for physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
- Human Development teaches students how their body changes throughout their lifespan how to care for and protect their bodies in a way that is developmentally and age appropriate, and characteristics of a healthy relationship. Students will learn and adopt behaviors which will maintain and enhance physical, mental, emotional, and social health
While there are positive updates in all the strands, Get Healthy Utah is especially supportive of the nutrition updates. The new standards help students identify a variety of healthy food options and get rid of outdated information, like the food guide pyramid; discuss portion size; emphasize the importance of healthy eating in combination with physical activity; teach students how to read a nutrition label; and analyze unscientific diet practices and misleading advertising claims.
The Utah State Board of Education website states that, “Health education, integral to the success of students in Utah’s educational setting, provides opportunities for students to acquire knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for life-long, health-enhancing behaviors. Schools can better achieve their basic educational mission if students are healthy and fit physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Habits that young people establish will affect their future health status in a positive or negative manner.”
After 90 days of public comment, and passing the Standards and Assessment Committee in March, the revised standards will go before the full board for a vote on April 4, 2019. Get Healthy Utah believes that the board should vote to approve the revised standards. You can contact your local board member as well as the full board and ask them to support the updates.
You can find your local board member here and email the full board at firstname.lastname@example.org.