By law, students in Ohio’s schools are required to learn about food and nutrition; the dangers of using tobacco, alcohol, and drugs (including opioids); personal safety and dating violence; organ donation; and sexually transmitted diseases.
And that’s it. Unlike all other areas of study, the Ohio Department of Education gives no specifics about what youth should know by the end of each grade. State law forbids them from adopting such standards, making Ohio the only state that lacks health education standards in its public-school curriculum.
Researchers and education advocates, including Dr. Holly Raffle, professor at Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, are working to change that.
Raffle was a curriculum consultant on a team that created a Health Education Model Curriculum to provide students in grades kindergarten through 12 an updated standard of health knowledge. The project was funded by the Mt. Sinai Healthcare Foundation, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, and The Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (OAHPERD).
As a curriculum consultant, Raffle provided much of the background research to determine why a standard for health education was needed, and how we should go about it.
“Dr. Raffle was essential in developing strategies and aligning resources to connect community, education, and health partners to ensure the Model Curriculum meets Ohio’s diverse needs,” Kevin Lorson, professor of health and physical education at Wright State University and the project leader, said. Lorson is also OAHPERD’s Advocacy Chair.
The Ohio Legislature is considering a bill (House Bill 165) that would replace the health content standards ban with a requirement that the state adopt content standards that align with the National Health Education Standards by July 1, 2020. But OAHPERD — which regularly receives requests from schools for help with current health education practices — wanted to create something that educators and stakeholders can use now.
“Education can impact health by supporting healthy communities, improving access to health care, and improving health literacy and health behaviors,” Lorson said.
The project’s goal was simple: “Create a useful tool for Ohio’s schools to create a health education curriculum that provides essential knowledge and skills that can be transferred to young people’s lives, ensuring their preparation for an active and healthy life now and for years to come,” according to OAHPERD.
The Health Model Curriculum is organized around eight topic areas: alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; healthy eating; healthy relationships; human growth and development; mental emotional health; personal health wellness; safety; and violence prevention. The standards are broad statements of what students are expected to know by the time they graduate from high school. Each standard has a set of benchmarks, or steps toward achieving the standard; each benchmark has a set of indicators, which are age-appropriate, specific goals that show the student’s skill level.
For example, Standard 6 calls for students to, “Demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting skills to enhance health.” Very young children, kindergarten through second grade, will learn to identify personal short-term health goals, how to achieve them, and find people to help them. Indicators that they can do these things might be setting goals to eat more healthfully, taking steps to improve their eating, and identifying teachers or family members who can help them reach their goal.
Raffle understands the importance of incorporating multiple facets of community when educating our youth in health.
“We want community stakeholders to know what is being taught in schools, how to complement it and align with it. I hope we can drive the non-educator to it to show them how we can bridge the community gap and demonstrate it cannot just be helpful to students, but also to community members,” Raffle said.
For more information on the curriculum, or to view its content, click here.