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Published in Print: November 25, 1998, as Reporter's Notebook

Reporter's Notebook

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Federal Agency To Send Anti-Drug Materials to All Middle Schools: Every middle school in America is about to get a hefty dose of drug-abuse-prevention materials, courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The federal agency plans to ship teacher's guides and fact sheets on drugs to all 18,084 public and private middle schools in the United States as early as this month.

The unusual federal campaign--which cost $80,000 to develop--is designed to educate teachers about which drug-prevention strategies work best in the classroom and to provide schools with the latest scientific facts about how drug abuse affects the brain.

The campaign targets middle schoolers because students in those grades are most at risk for starting to experiment with illicit drugs, a NIDA official said.

The educational package, "NIDA Goes to School," includes fact sheets on marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines, steroids, cocaine, and other drugs.

The mailing includes materials developed by NIDA to help science teachers use basic neurobiological principles to teach students how drugs can damage the brain. A guide published by NIDA last year on the best research-tested strategies to prevent drug use by adolescents is also included.

"Science-based education about drug abuse should be a prominent part of the curriculum for all students, and this new initiative provides teachers easily usable, student-oriented materials to help achieve that goal," Alan I. Leshner, NIDA's director, said in a written statement.

Sports Advantage: Playing sports can help students build more than muscles; athletics can give students a leg up academically as well, preliminary findings from a study suggest.

Middle and high school students who participate in organized athletic activities are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college than students who aren't involved in sports, according to researchers at the University of Miami's Center for Research on Sport and Society. They released the statistics last month.

For the ongoing study, the researchers used data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics to follow 14,000 8th graders as they moved through school from 1988 to 1994. Researchers interviewed the students every two years and issued questionnaires to teachers, principals, and parents.

Students who played football or basketball, for example, were 13 percent more likely to graduate and pursue a college degree than those who never played a sport.

The researchers found that athletic involvement had even greater benefits for black students. African-American student athletes are 10 percent more likely than any nonathlete to take college-preparatory courses and 10 percent more likely to make plans to attend college, according to the report.

The authors of the report contend that sports can help students focus on pursuing specific goals to achieve success, a value they carry over to their academic and personal lives.

Shots Pay Off: Giving flu shots to school-age children could benefit society financially, researchers in Virginia conclude.

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond presented the study late last month at the 36th Infectious Diseases Society of America meeting in Denver.

They conducted an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the influenza vaccination on healthy school-age children.

"We found that it was financially feasible to vaccinate children," said Dr. Mary D. Nettleman, the associate dean of primary care at the university's medical school and the lead researcher on the study.

The analysis compared the cost of vaccinating children with the total costs of not doing so, including physician visits and treatment and the loss of productivity when working parents stay home to care for sick children or take them to a doctor's office.

The researchers looked at two hypothetical scenarios comparing vaccinations done on an individual basis and those done in a group setting, such as through schools.

The analysis showed a net savings per child of $4 for individual vaccines and $35 for group-based vaccines.

--Jessica Portner jportner@epe.org
& Adrienne D. Coles acoles@epe.org

Vol. 18, Issue 14, Page 6

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