With renewed emphasis and pressure to improve test scores in math, reading and science, Chapman said sometimes there isn't enough time to adequately address health education. That's reflected in poor statewide health education test scores.
Every year, students in the sixth and eighth grades and those in high school take an online test in their health education classes, Chapman said. The Health Education Assessment Project asks students questions about alcohol and drug use, growth and development, injury prevention, nutrition, physical activity and tobacco usage.
Students scored only proficiently - answering more than 80 percent of questions correctly - in the category on injury prevention, Chapman said. That trend has remained the same from 2003 to last school year.
"There's not a lot of time to do all this stuff. I'm not belittling schools; it's just where are you putting your time or your infrastructure," Chapman said. "Health has been put to the side, and the proof is in the test scores."
He said cultural factors could play a role. He specifically referenced "Buckwild," a new show from MTV that follows young adults in the Charleston area. The stars are repeatedly seen drinking, partying and conducting questionably safe activities - jumping off bridges and riding in the back of pick-up trucks, for example.
Advertisements for potentially harmful products - Chapman specifically mentioned cigarettes - also mislead students about the side effects of those products.
"Right now, everything in an adolescent's mind is good, because they see it in the media, they hear a lot about negative influences, except from their ... family, which you know sometimes adolescents don't listen a lot to their parents," Chapman said.
The state standards are in line with national curriculum, Chapman said. If counties use the program in a comprehensive way and do so consistently during a student's career, that student has the tools to make safer decisions, he argues.
Counties also can create their own programs to combat certain problems. If there's a high teen pregnancy rate in a county, Chapman said that county can and should implement further programs to try to eradicate the problem.
The state department is working on a statewide reproductive health education logic model to better understand the program. Although the agenda for the legislative meeting mentioned a study concerning health education in the state, no action was taken.