LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Some Lee County educators say your kids may not be getting enough health education. This, after startling statistics show the state flagged Lee County for its high level of teen pregnancies.
From 2008-2010, there were 41 births for every 1,000 teenage girls age 15-19, compared to the state average of 37, according to the state health department.
Lee also has a higher level of STDs for young people than surrounding areas. In 2011, the Lee County Health Department says there were 817 STDs in people ages 10-19, compared to 908 for Collier, Charlotte, DeSoto, Hendry, Glades and Sarasota Counties combined.
District lead health teacher Leisha Roy made a presentation to the school board Tuesday, outlining curriculum changes that could help prevent that trend. She says all students are required to have comprehensive health education in grades K-12, but only one course is required in high school. "Our concern is we want to make sure all students are meeting those requirements in K-12," she says.
She says the school health advisory committee made a recommendation for K-5 students to have integrated education, and 6-12 students take a required course.
She adds, "if it was as simple as saying don't do this, it's bad for you and just telling someone that one time, we wouldn't have the problems we have with childhood obesity and STD rates so high. It's hard to get that in and make sure its being covered, especially if you don't have a stand alone course."
The Gulf Middle School teacher says she develops a good relationship with her students, helping them talk about things that may seem uncomfortable. "Sometimes kids are afraid to ask their parents questions because they are afraid the parents are gonna think they are doing something they shouldn't be doing. I think we need to teach the kids how to make good decisions, we need children to become health literate."
During the school board presentation, some board members were concerned about implementing new programs without getting more funding from the state. A health education task force will begin meeting next week to look at ways to incorporate more health education.
The Children's Network of Southwest Florida is also in on the fight. A teen outreach program is now being expanded into Lee County, after its success in Hendry and Glades Counties. Aimee McLaughlin with the Children's Network says the teen outreach program give teens the opportunity to learn about things like pregnancy and making good decisions. She says they started the program in 2005 in Hendry, and have not seen any cases of girls becoming pregnant.
They are in the process of getting the program up and running in Lee County. If you are interested in learning more about it or becoming a host site for the program, visit http://www.childnetswfl.org.