NASBO Director Says Outlook for State Budgets Is Bleak
Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), noted in an address to the State Health Affairs Group meeting October 9 in Washington, D.C. that the outlook for state budgets was bleak before September 11, and that states may now be in even more financial trouble than first suspected. Almost all states begin their fiscal year in July, so the effect of the September 11 attacks will be reflected in the next two quarters. Current projections are for a shortfall of $1 billion during the 2001 fiscal year and, potentially, a $6 to $10 billion deficit in 2002. California alone is forecasting a $2- to $4-billion dollar deficit for 2002.
States have been able to cover the payment of employee retirement benefits with a strong stock market; however, if the market continues downward, states may be forced to use money from their general fund to support these retirement systems. If the economic downturn continues toward a recession, there will be major cuts in 2002. Raising taxes is an unpopular alternative politically, so governors and budget officers will be analyzing funds that are expendable, which may place Medicaid benefits and tobacco settlement funds at risk. Freezes on hiring and training of state employees, as well as travel expenditures, will continue through the end of this year. Additional information is available on NASBO's Web site athttp://www.nasbo.org.
Physicians with Heart Trip to Moldova Is Modified
Despite the current military action in Afghanistan and the continued uncertainty of travel abroad, the ninth annual Physicians With Heart mission to Moldova will be completed. The project has been divided into two segments: the first was a delivery of medicine and humanitarian items by the U.S. State Department in October as originally scheduled, and the second will be a delegation of family physicians who will travel to Moldova in February 2002 to provide continuing medical education programs, follow up on the medicines delivered in October, and complete the humanitarian project at the Sarrata Galbena Orphanage. Moldova, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, is one of the poorest countries in eastern Europe. Physicians with Heart is an international humanitarian project sponsored by a coalition of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the AAFP Foundation, and Heart to Heart International whose mission is to mobilize resources to improve health, provide medical education, and to foster the development of family practice worldwide.
HHS Report Shows Current Rates of Drug Use Are Unchanged
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently released the findings of the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which showed that overall rates of current use of illicit drugs were relatively unchanged, but that illicit drug use did decline among early teenagers, and cigarette smoking dropped among teenagers and young adults. Among youths aged 12 to 17 years, 9.7 percent reported current illicit drug use in 2000, compared with 9.8 percent in 1999. Twelve- to 13-year-olds, a target group of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, demonstrated a decline in current drug use from 3.9 percent in 1999 to 3.0 percent in 2000. Current use was defined as using the drug at least once during the 30 days prior to the survey interview. Among youths aged 12 to 17 years, only 7.1 percent who indicated that their “parents would strongly disapprove if they tried marijuana once or twice” had used an illicit drug in the past month, compared with 31.2 percent of youths who thought their parents did not strongly disapprove of illicit drug use. Between 1999 and 2000, current cigarette use declined among all age groups: 14.9 percent to 13.4 percent among youths aged 12 to 17 years, and 39.7 percent to 38.3 percent among young adults aged 18 to 25 years. The rate of alcohol use among youths aged 12 to 20 years and the general population has remained relatively unchanged for several years. The survey included interviews of 71,000 persons in the United States aged 12 years or older. Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse are available on the Web athttp://www.samhsa.gov/news/click3_frame.html.
Report Stresses Need for Physical Education Programs in Schools
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recently released the “Shape of the Nation” report, which demonstrated the necessity of quality physical education programs in local school systems and that the majority of states were not meeting the recommendations of the federal government and other organizations for such programs. The report stressed that physical activity can have physical, psychologic, and social benefits, and that inactive children are more likely to become inactive adults, and, subsequently be at a higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. According to the survey, the majority of elementary school students are being taught physical education by classroom teachers and the majority of high school students are only required to take physical education one year between ninth and 12th grade in 37 states. The NASPE recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week for elementary students and 225 minutes for secondary students, and that physical education classes should be taught by physical education specialists with adequate equipment and facilities that allow every child to participate. “Children need to be taught the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for them to lead healthy, active, and productive lives,” said NASPE Executive Director Judith C. Young, Ph.D. “To do that, all programs must facilitate achievement of the National Standards for Physical Education,” she emphasized. A complete copy of the “Shape of the Nation” report is available on the Web athttp://www.aahperd.org/naspe/naspe_main.html and clicking on “Executive Summary: Shape of the Nation.”