Health classes fail to offer modern education

Students+circle+the+track+during+a+Walking+Wednesday.+These+class+periods+are+the+only+time+Health+students+participate+in+physical+activity+throughout+the+week.

Zachary Chan

Students circle the track during a “Walking Wednesday.” These class periods are the only time Health students participate in physical activity throughout the week.

Zachary Chan

As COVID-19 continues to ravage the United States, Midtown has chosen to maintain its graduation requirements of at least one physical education credit, a health credit and one personal fitness credit. With its decision to maintain its graduation requirements, it’s clear that Midtown cares about its students’ nutritional education. But its 16-year-old curriculum seems to say otherwise.

It’s a societal imperative for citizens of a country to be able to live happy and healthy lives, and they can do so through simply the implementation of knowledge they acquire in school. Yet the state-provided materials for these “health” classes that should be responsible for this teaching haven’t been updated since 2005.

While these requirements may seem like an annoying obstacle to students on the path to high school graduation, they are necessary. Health education provides a unique tool in the fight against issues that plague the current generation and keeping them updated remains crucial to spreading awareness about public health issues and their prevention. Chief among the issues the health teens face today: obesity and vaping.

From 2017 to 2018, one-fifth of all people aged 12 to 19 in the United States were considered obese. And on a state-by-state basis, Georgia, and the South in general, suffer from obesity at higher rates than other parts of the country.

Obesity presents a particularly unique concern in children. Along with the increased risk for cardiovascular diseases and illnesses that adults experience, such as type two diabetes and gallstones, obesity in adolescents can also lead to asthma, sleep apnea and joint problems. The affliction has even been tied to increased rates of anxiety and depression as a result of the stigma around being overweight.

However, there are many ways to combat these risks, including a healthy diet featuring fruits, vegetables and lean meats, coupled with an hour a day of exercise for those aged 6 to 17. Even with these simple solutions, the current health curriculum in Georgia makes little mention of either the risks or treatments for childhood obesity; it takes only one week to cover the entire unit. After this, the class shifts its focus to other ailments such as tuberculosis and Huntington’s disease, both rare illnesses in the U.S. population in comparison to the prevailing issue of obesity

In addition, the current curriculum makes no mention of vaping and its detriments to the body. State educators and policy-makers did not see it fit at the time to include material addressing a problem that was previously much less prevalent and destructive. While the course features units discussing marijuana and tobacco usage, rightfully considered concerning health issues of the time, vaping had yet to gain national attention as a health concern, partially because the largest vaping company in the country, JUUL, was not founded until 2015.

Now, however, vaping amongst the American youth has become a serious public health crisis, with an estimated one-quarter of all high school students in the nation admitting to the use of e-cigarettes. The compounds within vaping devices, especially nicotine, can lead to lasting addictions in adolescents that can severely inhibit mental development, and yet health classes in Georgia mention nothing about the topic. 68 people nationwide have even died as a result of EVALI linked to the vitamin E acetate commonly found in e-cigarette products.

The purpose of health class should be to ensure every American student graduates high school knowing the potential major health problems they could face in their lifetime and how to effectively lower the chances of them having to face those issues and mitigate the effects of those conditions if necessary. The only way to achieve this goal is to update and revise the state-provided curriculum and teaching material to reflect modern problems.

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