Health Column

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In light of the growing number of students who experiment with illegal drugs and alcohol or use them on a regular basis, schools should reassess the effectiveness of their drug-prevention programs and policies, a report by the National School Boards Association suggests.

The report, released last week, recommends that administrators conduct an anonymous student survey to determine the extent of the problem in their schools and to revise their drug-prevention curriculum.

The report, which also recommends that schools begin such instruction in kindergarten and continue it through 12th grade, stresses the importance of identification and intervention programs for school-age drug abusers.

School policies should unequivocably state that all drug use is unacceptable, the report concludes.

Copies of the report, "Alcohol and Drugs in the Public Schools: Implications for School Leaders,'' is being distributed to school boards nationwide. Additional copies are available from school-board associations in each state.

Gov. Michael S. Dukakis has signed legislation that makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to provide health-insurance coverage for all residents.

The measure requires all employers with six or more employees to provide health insurance for their workers, or to pay into a state fund that provides coverage for uninsured and unemployed residents.

In addition, the legislationrequires the state's colleges and universities to provide health-insurance coverage for students not covered by their parents' plans.

An estimated 600,000 residents lack health-insurance coverage, according to a spokesman for the Governor.

The National Fitness Campaign will award up to $5 million in grant money to schools that promote physical fitness.

The group will provide matching grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 for 1,000 schools nationwide to launch a 12-month fitness program. Since the program began in 1979, more than 3,000 schools have taken part in its "fitness package,'' which includes exercises and plans for a specially designed outdoor exercise area that participating schools install.

For more information about the grant program, write: Michael Klein, Vice-President of Communications, The National Fitness Campaign, 50 Francisco St., Suite 265, San Francisco, Calif. 94133.

On both the national and state level, lawmakers are considering legislation that would limit classroom use of common art materials that contain potentially hazardous substances.

In particular, health advocates are concerned that potentially damaging levels of toxins are found in rubber cement, permanent markers, solders, and powdered clay.

In the U.S. House, two lawmakers are considering introducing legislation that would require manufacturers to notify customers if their products pose potential health hazards. The legislation would also limit the use of certain products in grades K-6.

Similar controls on arts materials are also being considered by legislatures in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.

The United States had the 19th-lowest infant-mortality rate among all nations in 1985, ranking behind such countries as Spain and Singapore, according to a report by the Children's Defense Fund.

If black infant-mortality rates were considered separately, the group reports, the U.S. would rank 29th--the same standing as Costa Rica.

The advocacy group found that the mortality rate for minority infants during their first 28 days of life rose between 1984 and 1985--the first such increase in 20 years.

The highest levels of infant mortality, the group reports, were in the District of Columbia, Delaware, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the group also found increases in 1985 in the proportions of low-birthweight babies and premature births. There was also a greater percentage of women receiving late or no prenatal care, and a rise in black maternal mortality.

Copies of the report, "The Health of America's Children: Maternal and Child Health Data Book,'' are available for $12.95 each from the C.D.F., 122 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

Elementary-school teachers tend to have mistaken views about good dental hygiene, yet often give their students dental-health lessons, a survey of 400 teachers in two communities has found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota, found that teachers ranked drinking floridated water sixth among a list of 10 cavity-prevention strategies.

They ranked regular visits to the dentist as the most important prevention strategy, and reducing sugar consumption as the second most effective behavior.

However, note the researchers, drinking floridated water is commonly considered by medical professionals to be the most effective cavity-prevention strategy.

Vol. 07, Issue 32

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