Knotts, Glenn R., Ph.D., and McGovern, John P., M.D. SCHOOL HEALTH PROBLEMS Springfield, III.: Charles C Thomas. 1975, 336 pp.. $19.95.
The editors have assembled a group of experts on school health and its problems, and the result is an excellent book with a wealth of information and new ideas on how to implement a worthwhile school health program. Bland, in the chapter "Drug Education: Where Now?", makes an excellent suggestion: "A comprehensive curriculum of health science, K-12, designed to meet the needs, interests and abilities of children, is superior to a series of crash programs. Traditionally, health science or health education has not been given a position of prestige or prominence among the recognized academic subjects. ... It must be accorded the prestige and prominence ... of other curricular offerings. If instituting a comprehensive health instruction program requires revision and reorganization of the total school curriculum, the time to begin is now."
The opening four chapters state the problem of school health, its aims and goals, the difficulties in implementation, the difficulties of obtaining cooperation from the teachers and school administrators, and the scarcity of trained nurses. These chapters are followed by a worldwide overview of health services to children by Minear. Hill's chapter on school health services is a disappointment in that of its 12 pages only one is devoted to school children, the rest being concerned with school personnel.
The remaining 10 chapters deal with specific problems, including mental health, hearing, vision, special education, allerg)', dental problems, sex education, drug education, safety, and nutrition. Although they do not include the whole gamut of the ills of children, the subjects are well chosen and presented.
In these times of confusion and anxiety, the chapter by Gendel on sex education is welcome. He states properly: "The basic concern in sex education at every level - preschool, school, young adult, parent, middle age and older age - is to integrate sex and sexuality into the whole life." In his chapter "Mental Health Problems of School Children," Farnsworth elaborates: "As freedom of sexual expression has become possible for many individuals, others have interpreted that freedom as a requirement and have thus been propelled into behavior which they do not desire and for which they are not ready. For many girls 'the right to say no' has been seriously impaired. . . . Love is not submission to someone else. ... It means (among other things) the treatment of all persons with dignity, honor and respect without prejudging them. ..."
There is so much valuable material in this book that one is tempted to extract quotations ad infinitum. However, one cannot pass up the statement of Doster and Sargent, in their chapter on visual functions: "The time-honored Snellen test at twenty feet is still a very reliable screening tool for acuity and, with observation of the students, often gives cues to other eye conditions." Americans have a penchant for gadgetry and tend to denigrate the value of the Snellen test. Some ill-informed parentteacher associations prevail upon just as ill-informed school administrations to opt for fancy, expensive machines run by poorly trained persons.
The chapter by McGovern et al. on allergy is valuable if for no other reason than its statement that "asthma is the most important of allergic diseases seen in schools, accounting for approximately 23 percent of all days lost from school by children between ages six and sixteen." The chapter on dental care is probably too idealistic.
The editors are to be commended for compiling such a fine book, not only with regard to the subjects chosen but also on their choice of authors. The book is highly recommended to all who deal with school health. It is aimed at those of the medical and dental professions and particularly at school administrators, teachers, and nurses. In the final analysis, these three groups have to implement and make room for the programs discussed. This may very well mean the creation of a new subject, "health science," to be incorporated into the curriculum as a subject of equal weight and importance to all the other time-honored academic subjects. After all, what more valuable asset is there than healthy children, who have a better chance of becoming healthy adults?