In Connecticut, a planned, sequential PK-12 Coordinated School Health (CSH) education curriculum is a system designed to addresses the physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions of health. CSH aims to improve students’ health and their capacity to learn through the support of families, communities and schools working together. A new nationwide survey indicates that the broader, comprehensive definition of health education is precisely what families are seeking in the health education of children. Teaching kids about drugs, alcohol and sex appears to be less controversial than ever before with the majority of parents in a new poll saying schools should and do teach these subjects.
Many parents want more — saying those topics are not enough — finds the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of parents with kids in middle or high school. Two-thirds of parents polled say schools should definitely cover emotional and mental health issues — which may include such subjects as dealing with depression, stress and bullying — yet only a third say these topics are currently covered by their child’s school. Another 68 percent of parents want to see schools cover basic first aid, and 63 percent say kids should learn CPR.
A coordinated approach to school health aligns health and education efforts and leads to improved physical, mental and developmental outcomes for students, according to the State Department of Education (SDE) website. The department’s overview of the program indicates that “Students’ physical, social and emotional development requires the same level of ongoing assessment and support as their academic development.”
“Research has consistently concluded that student health and academic achievement are directly connected and, in fact, that student health is one of the most significant influences on learning and achievement,” SDE points out.
In the national survey, parents “clearly perceive a gap between what their children need and what they are receiving in the area of mental health education, as well as basic first aid and CPR,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. “We are seeing increasing concerns for such issues as stress, depression and suicide among young people, and parents want schools to be a part of the solution. These results suggest that the stigma of mental health issues may have relaxed among today’s parents, in favor of using a broad array of resources to help children and adolescents with these critical areas.”
The Connecticut curriculum is designed to “motivate children and youth to maintain and improve their health, prevent disease, reduce health-related risk behaviors and develop and demonstrate health-related knowledge, attitudes, skills and practices.”
Nearly four in 10 parents (39 percent) in the Mott survey believe schools should educate students on how to use the health care system. But only one in 10 parents say the topic is covered in their child’s school. Low-income parents are more likely to say schools should teach students how to use the health care system—perhaps, Clark notes, because these parents face challenges themselves in accessing health care. The survey does not include a state-by-state breakdown of the data.