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Sex and chocolate: Utah kids know a lot about one, not the other
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah high school students are the least likely in the country to learn about condoms at school — and the most able to buy chocolate.

That's according to the School Health Profiles 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To Michael Friedrichs, in the Bureau of Health Promotion at the state health department, the report shows Utah schools have a "ways to go" to become healthier.

While Utah is a leader in requiring students caught smoking cigarettes to participate in education or cessation programs, about 40 percent of schools didn't have a policy prohibiting all tobacco use.

Friedrichs said some schools don't have such policies because principals don't think their students smoke. Other schools may allow faculty to smoke, he said.

He also pointed to Utah's highest-in-the-nation ranking for schools that sell junk food in vending machines as a policy "we could do a lot better at."

Nearly 92 percent of Utah secondary schools allowed cookies, crackers, chocolate, salty snacks, soda pop or sports drinks to be sold on school grounds. West Virginia was on the other extreme, with 18 percent allowing the sales. The national average was 62 percent.

High schools can make thousands of dollars a month selling junk. A 2010 proposal to make vending food healthier was rejected by Utah lawmakers who said parents should take responsibility for guiding what their children eat. One out of five Utah high school students are overweight or obese.

As the Utah Department of Health and Utah State Office of Education work together to improve school health, they may encourage schools to include healthy options in vending machines, he said. Other options suggested by the CDC include increasing the price of junk food, providing calorie counts of food and asking students for ideas on how to promote healthy eating.

Utah schools have nearly barred the topic of safe sex. Utah had the lowest percentage of high schools in which students were taught these points: The efficacy of condoms, the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly, how to obtain condoms and how to use condoms correctly.

Utah law forbids the advocacy or encouragement of contraception in public schools. But Lynn Meinor, manager of the health department's communicable-disease prevention program, said teachers can and should be teaching students how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. Rates of diseases such as chlamydia continue to rise among high school and college-aged students in Utah.

Among youth the health department teaches, many report they learned little about protection in school. "It's very, very limited," Meinor said. "The majority [of youth] cannot even talk about the four fluids that can transmit HIV [blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk]."

The School Health Profiles data comes from principals and health education teachers who are surveyed every other year on a variety of health polices and practices.

The state health department recently sent schools the data along with suggestions, such as creating asthma action plans, adding shade structures to prevent sunburns and not allowing students to opt out of physical education classes.

hmay@sltrib.com

School health policies

Percentage of Utah high schools that taught:

Efficacy of condoms • 38.5 (80.5 percent U.S.)

Importance of using condoms consistently and correctly • 26.8 (69.5 U.S.)

How to obtain condoms • 12.4 (57.1 U.S.)

How to use condoms correctly • 10.1 (49.2 U.S.)

Percentage of Utah secondary schools that sold in vending machines or snack bars:

Fruits • 39 (28 U.S.)

Vegetables • 32 (20 U.S.)

Ice cream or frozen yogurt • 31 (14 U.S.)

Soda pop or fruit drinks • 54 (30 U.S.)

Chocolate candy • 75 (20.4 U.S.)

Source: School Health Profiles 2010. —

School health policies

Percentage of Utah high schools that taught:

Efficacy of condoms • 38.5 (80.5 percent U.S.)

Importance of using condoms consistently and correctly • 26.8 (69.5 U.S.)

How to obtain condoms • 12.4 (57.1 U.S.)

How to use condoms correctly • 10.1 (49.2 U.S.)

Percentage of Utah secondary schools that sold specific foods in vending machines or snack bars:

Fruits • 39 (28 U.S.)

Vegetables • 32 (20 U.S.)

Ice cream or frozen yogurt • 31 (14 U.S.)

Soda pop or fruit drinks • 54 (30 U.S.)

Chocolate candy • 75 (20.4 U.S.)

Source: School Health Profiles 2010

Health • Report compares schools' health policies, from sex ed to junk food offerings.
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