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LETTERS: School district right to seek sex education overhaul

To the editor:

As a family doctor and parent, I applaud the Clark County School District for considering long-overdue updates to the sex education curriculum, and for engaging parents and the community in this discussion. What appears to be a values-laden debate contains much common ground.

Parents universally want to raise youth who respect themselves, make good decisions and grow up to thrive in healthy relationships. Knowledge, not ignorance, is key to accomplishing these goals. Parents have the ultimate authority to start and carry on conversations with their children about sex, but parents need an active partner in the schools to provide facts and age-appropriate guidance. Our city is rife with images, messages and activities which objectify sex and sell unrealistic images of body types. The Internet and our streets provide openings for predators and sexual traffickers. Yet Clark County is currently doing little to arm our youth with the knowledge and information that will help them make healthy choices and stay safe.

In my work with adolescents and their parents, I find that youth are hungry for accurate, modern information about contraception and protection from diseases. They yearn for skills to help them understand themselves, decline unwanted sexual advances and negotiate safely in relationships and online. In my 13 years in practice here, I have seen many poorly informed teens from intact, middle-class families with strong values end up in violent relationships, unintentionally pregnant or afflicted with preventable sexually transmitted diseases. These situations commonly affect their school performance, graduation rates and future health.

I have seen many high school graduates in their 20s who still lack basic information and skills, at a time when many are sexually active and forming long-term relationships. Research is clear and unequivocal: youth who receive medically accurate and age-appropriate sexuality education have lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower rates of abortion and fewer sexually transmitted diseases than those who experienced abstinence-based or no education.

Sexuality education is a community health issue. Consequences of inadequate youth sexuality education play out every day in our community with high rates of sexually transmitted infections and the nation’s seventh-highest rate of teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy in Nevada led to an astounding $68 million in estimated direct costs and lost earnings in 2010, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Medical professionals, including the Nevada State Medical Association, strongly support comprehensive, fact-based, age-appropriate sex education to improve our public health. I strongly encourage the Clark County School Board to heed the advice of medical professionals and expand the curriculum.

JOANNE LEOVY, M.D.

LAS VEGAS

Calorie counts

To the editor:

I guess the same reasoning that Steve Chapman uses for not putting calorie counts on menus can be used to say we shouldn’t put health warnings on cigarettes, right? (“Menu truths won’t make you slim, but will cost you,” Dec. 2 Review-Journal). After all, when the health warnings on cigarettes came out, almost everyone ignored them. Manufacturers complained about the cost, but little by little, the labels had an impact on Americans’ smoking habits.

Would Mr. Chapman roll back these “unnecessary regulations”?

As a consumer, I can say I pay attention to the calorie counts in menus. One day, I was at a restaurant and ready to order my “healthy” salad with many wonderful toppings. But I found that the count of calories in the salad was more than if I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger, so I found something else with fewer calories. Mr. Chapman assumes that calorie counts will not change people’s habits, but over time they will, and restaurants might start offering lower-calorie meals that taste just as good or even better.

The cost to the United States from obesity is enormous, much more than the cost of these regulations, so even if only some people pay attention, it could actually save consumers money as health insurance inflation subsides.

EDWARD WILLIAMS

NORTH LAS VEGAS

Successful presidency

To the editor:

Carmine A. DiFazio’s letter calls the Obama presidency a failed one. Mr. DiFazio mentions the Keystone pipeline, health care and immigration (“Failing presidency,” Dec. 4 Review-Journal). A multitude of financial and economic indicators are at multiyear, if not all-time, highs. The automobile industry is enjoying its best year since 2003, and gasoline costs less than $3 a gallon.

On health care, you have to go all the way back to the 1970s to find the percentage of uninsured Americans lower than the current level. A report just came out that reflects health care costs have gone up at the slowest pace in generations.

If a failed presidency means double-digit returns in my investment accounts, sub-$3-a-gallon gas and not getting thrown off health insurance I’ve paid into for 40 years if I fall off my bicycle, then let the good times roll. I’ll take a failed presidency any day.

GERRY HAGEMAN

LAS VEGAS

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