Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Office to Support Fitness and Health Instruction

DOE Press Release: Chancellor Klein Announces New Office to Support Fitness and Health Instruction

Emphasis on Teaching Students Lifelong Healthy Habits

Date: Last Modified: 10/18/2007 2:16:29 PM
Press ID: N-19, 2007-2008

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the creation of a new Office of Fitness and Health Education to increase student knowledge and enhance achievement in these two critical subjects. The office, which will be supported by both the Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), reflects the growing conviction among experts that effective instruction integrates fitness and health. The Office of Fitness and Health Education will work to counter Citywide and national epidemics of obesity, diabetes, teen pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS by focusing resources and instructional time on changing student knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and making the connection between fitness and health.

“Youth fitness and health data make it clear that we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that all students receive appropriate and rigorous instruction in these subjects,” Chancellor Klein said. “We need to offer students healthy alternatives for risky behaviors and we need to get students exercising.”

“Healthy kids learn better,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden said. “Improving fitness and nutrition is one of the best investments we can make for our children – and for our city’s future.”

In 2003, as part of the Children First education reforms, sustained support for both fitness and health were revived for the first time since the City’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s. The vital importance of these issues is demonstrated by:

A 2003 Health Department study showing that only 53% of New York City elementary school students are at a healthy weight and that more than 20% are obese.

A 2005 New York City pregnancy rate of 94 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19. The number of New York City high school students reporting that they had been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant was higher in 2005 than in any year since the Department of Health began reporting these statistics in 1997. Teen pregnancy can have serious consequences for mothers and their infants.

Results of the 2007 joint DOE/DOHMH Youth Risk Behavior Survey that showed a clear need to educate New York City teenagers about birth control options. The report urged parents, health care providers, and other trusted adults to encourage teenagers to delay sexual activity. The report also stressed the need for teens to use condoms and birth control if they become sexually active.

The new office will report to the DOE’s Division of Teaching and Learning and the Office of School Health, a joint program of DOE and DOHMH. It will serve all schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, helping principals to meet health education and fitness instruction requirements and providing curriculum, training, and school-based assistance to ensure that all students receive the high-quality instruction they need.

“Fitness, physical education, and health education are key parts of a coordinated school health program,” Director of the Office of School Health Dr. Roger Platt said. “We need to harness the power of instruction, school-based health services, and public health resources to provide a comprehensive approach to school wellness.”

Under the leadership of Lori Rose Benson, who oversaw the highly successful expansion of physical education as part of the Children First reforms, the Office of Fitness and Health Education will introduce new Health education initiatives. These include HealthSmart, a new health curriculum for middle and high school students. In accordance with New York State and national health education standards, critical topics covered by the curriculum include alcohol, tobacco, and drug use; nutrition; injury and violence; physical activity; and sexual risk behaviors.

To meet state learning standards for sex education, HealthSmart will be supplemented among high school students with Reducing the Risk, a research-based program that focuses on delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse, increasing the use of contraception among teens who do initiate sexual intercourse, and increasing parent-child communication about abstinence and contraception. Students will continue to receive age-appropriate lessons in the state mandated NYCDOE HIV/AIDS Curriculum.

The Office of Fitness and Health Education will also expand on the Department’s use of NYC FITNESSGRAM, an evaluation of a child’s physical fitness that is summarized in a report and sent to parents with targeted suggestions for improvement. Half a million students have been evaluated using NYC FITNESSGRAM since its inception in the 2005-2006 school year.

Additionally, the new office will oversee expansion of the C.H.A.M.P.S. program (Cooperative, Healthy, Active, Motivated, Positive Students), which offers middle-school students organized programs in basketball, tennis, baseball, track and field, crew, cricket, and yoga.

“Our schools must play a role in creating a healthier generation of students,” said Ms. Benson, who was named last year the nation’s outstanding physical education administrator by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. “The Chancellor is holding schools accountable for high performance. As educators we must grab students’ attention, teach them how they can make healthy choices now and throughout their lives, and motivate them to change their habits.”

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