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School programs aimed at encouraging students to adopt a healthy life style--specifically, by avoiding use of tobacco and a diet high in fat--can lead to positive changes in their future behavior, a new study suggests.

The study offers the strongest evidence to date that school-intervention programs can alter habits that have been linked with cancer and heart disease.

Researchers followed a group of 447 students in Westchester County, N.Y., who received special lessons for two hours a week between the 4th and 9th grades. By the 10th grade, the study found, those students were less likely to smoke or have a high-fat diet than were students in a control group that did not have the classes.

Students in the program reduced their total fat intake by nearly 10 percent. The proportion of participants who smoked was 73 percent lower than for the other students.

The majority of the students studied were white and from middle- or upper-middle-class families. "If these findings can be replicated among sociodemographically diverse populations of schoolchildren," the researchers concluded,"it would suggest that programs such as this may have the potential to reduce the population risk for the second leading cause of death [cancer] in the United States."

Results of the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, were published in the July 5 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

High-quality, stable child care is necessary for teenage parents seeking to participate in education and vocational programs, preliminary results from a 6study by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education and the rand Corporation suggest.

Informal child-care arrangements cannot be relied upon, many program administrators and participants told researchers.

But relatively few schools offer on-site day care, and those that do have long waiting lists, the research shows.

The preliminary results were outlined by the ncrve in comments responding to proposed federal welfare regulations.

Children from large families generally receive fewer years of schooling and have poorer verbal skills than those from small families, a researcher has concluded.

In a review of six national surveys conducted from 1955 to 1986, Judith Blake, a professor of population at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that children from small families were far more likely to complete high school and attend college than were those from large families.

As a result of greater "parental interaction and attention," Ms. Blake argued, children from smaller families also scored higher on verbal-skills tests than did those from larger families, regardless of parents' education, income, marital status, or residence.

Ms. Blake's work is summarized in the July 7 issue of Science.

Colleges must make greater efforts to give at-risk youths an early awareness of opportunities in higher education, urges a new report by the American Council on Education and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

The report calls for programs to provide counseling for at-risk pupils in the late elementary and early secondary grades.

Copies of "Certainty of Opportunity" are available for $7 each from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, 1920 L St., N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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