What Are Health Education Standards?

The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed to establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students in all grade levels—from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. The NHES provide a framework for teachers, administrators, and policy makers in designing or selecting curricula, allocating instructional resources, and assessing student achievement and progress. Importantly, the standards provide students, families and communities with concrete expectations for health education.

The NHES are written expectations for what students should know and be able to do by grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 to promote personal, family, and community health. The standards provide a framework for curriculum development and selection, instruction, and student assessment in health education. Since they are not content specific, the material taught will still be left up to each individual school district.[i]

The 8 Standards are:

  • Health promotion and disease prevention to enhance health
  • Influencing of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors
  • Accessing valid information, products, and services to enhance health
  • Using interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks
  • Using decision-making skills to enhance health
  • Using goal-setting skills to enhance health
  • Practicing health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks
  • Advocating for personal, family, and community health

What Health Education Looks Like in Ohio

Ohio is one of only two states in the country without Health Education Standards (the other being Iowa). Currently in Ohio sexuality education is left up to each individual school district. Every school district in the state, except for Cleveland, has an elected board of education who regulates this curriculum.

Ohio Revised Code 3313.6011, titled “Instruction in venereal disease education emphasizing abstinence,” details Ohio’s sexuality education policy. The statute states:

(B) Instruction in venereal disease… shall emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is one hundred per cent effective against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and the sexual transmission of a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

(C) …The state board of education shall require course material and instruction in venereal disease education courses taught… to do all of the following:

(1) Stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage;

(2) Teach the potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage;…

(4) Stress that sexually transmitted diseases are serious possible hazards of sexual activity;

Ohio is one of 24 states that mandates sex education and one of 34 states that mandates HIV education. For sex education, abstinence must be stressed. Information including the importance of sex only within marriage and negative outcomes of teen sex must be presented. Sex or HIV education does not need to be medically accurate, age appropriate, or be culturally appropriate and unbiased. Abstinence must be stressed when HIV education is provided as well.[ii]

The Need

In 2014, young people under the age of 25 accounted for approximately 30% of all new HIV infections in Ohio. This same age group accounted for approximately 72% of chlamydia, 59% of gonorrhea, and 29% of syphilis cases in Ohio in 2014.[iii] [iv] [v] [vi]

Your Opportunity

Support National Health Education Standards in every state which highlight HIV and STI prevention and transmission education.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, June 17). Healthy Schools: National Health Education Standards. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/sher/standards/index.htm

[ii] Guttmacher Institute. (2016, March 1). State Policies in Brief: Sex and HIV Education. Retrieved from The Guttmacher Institute: https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/spibs/spib_SE.pdf

[iii] Ohio Department of Health. (2015). Diagnoses of HIV and/or AIDS Reported in Ohio 2014. Retrieved from Ohio Department of Health: https://www.odh.ohio.gov/~/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/health%20statistics%20-%20disease%20-%20hiv-aids/WebTables12.pdf

[iv] Ohio Department of Health. (2015). Ohio Chlamydia Cases 2010-2014. Retrieved from Ohio Department of Health: https://www.odh.ohio.gov/~/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/bid/std%20surveillance/CT1014.pdf

[v] Ohio Department of Health. (2015). Ohio Gonorrhea Cases 2010-2014. Retrieved from Ohio Department of Health: https://www.odh.ohio.gov/~/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/bid/std%20surveillance/GC1014.pdf

[vi] Ohio Department of Health. (2015). Ohio Total Syphilis Cases 2010-2014. Retrieved from Ohio Department of Health: https://www.odh.ohio.gov/~/media/ODH/ASSETS/Files/bid/std%20surveillance/TotSyp1014.pdf