Public Health Group Calls for Troop Pullout, End to Abstinence-Only Ed

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( -The world's largest organization of public health professionals concluded its annual meeting in Boston Wednesday by calling for U.S. forces to leave Iraq and for an end to abstinence-only sex education.

The American Public Health Association (APHA) also expressed its support for a ban on serving trans fats in restaurants and a treaty instituting global control of alcohol consumption.

Holding its four-day 134th annual gathering, the APHA called "for the immediate initiation of the safe withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Iraq accompanied by the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops in areas of high risk for inter-ethnic conflict or civil war."

"The association urges reconstruction of vital health-supporting infrastructure in Iraq and ensuring safe access to this infrastructure by the Iraqi people while also guaranteeing that adequate resources are provided for the care and rehabilitation of injured U.S. military personnel and their families," it said.

"APHA has long supported using the funds saved by the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq to meet public health needs in the United States and in developing countries," it said.

The document was approved by the 13,000 public health professionals from around the world attending the meeting.

Participants also expressed strong opposition to abstinence-only sex education.

"The association notes that while abstinence from sexual intercourse is theoretically fully protective against pregnancy and disease, in actual practice, abstinence often fails, leaving students unequipped to prevent unintended pregnancies and protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other consequences," the group said.

As a result, "APHA calls for repealing current federal funding for abstinence-only programs and replacing it with funding for a new federal program to promote comprehensive sexuality education, combining information about abstinence with age-appropriate sexuality education."

Hallmarks of such a program should include "information about concepts of healthy sexuality; sexuality orientation and tolerance; risks of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy; access to reproductive health care, such as birth control; and benefits and risks of condoms and other contraceptives," the organization noted.

The medical personnel also expressed support for steps to reverse the nation's "obesity epidemic" and urged federal, state and local governments "to ban and monitor the use of trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated oils in restaurants."

The APHA said the World Health Organization should adopt and implement a binding international treaty "to help reduce the harmful consumption of alcoholic beverages."

"The global burden of disease for alcohol is approaching that of tobacco," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA. "A framework convention on alcohol would help strengthen the hand of countries in setting policies that protect human health."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Wednesday's announcement isn't the first time the APHA has made controversial decisions regarding American policy.

In September 2002, the group gave the country failing grades for its efforts to "prevent hate crimes, ethnic, racial and religious discrimination, including profiling; promote cultural competence, diversity training, and dialogue among peoples; and protect human rights and civil liberties."

At the time, Heritage Foundation scholar Dr. Bob Moffit accused the group of "ideological myopia" and questioned its decision to grapple with issues seemingly unrelated to public health.

"They have an ideological axe to grind, but they don't have any particular expertise in this area at all," Moffit said. "It's just odd."

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