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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 19, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---The Department of Public Health and the Public School System are joining efforts to survey all 6th through 12th graders on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. The survey, developed by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, will question children about their experience with, attitudes about and knowledge of tobacco and smoking. The results will help the two agencies provide better health education and prevention programs.

"Unfortunately we cannot do it alone," said Joseph Villagomez, Secretary of Public Health. "Not only do we need the Public School System but we also need the parents. Before the students can take the survey, their parents need to sign the parental permission form."

Commissioner of Education Rita Inos said that the forms are being distributed this week so that the administration of the survey can begin next week.

"Even though the survey is optional we need the students to complete it. The data will help us design our programs to meet the needs of the students and the community. But we won't have the data if the students can't fill out the questionnaire," added Ms. Inos. "It is very important that the parents sign the forms when their children bring them home, and that the students then return them to their teachers."

The survey will be administered during second period classes at Marianas High School on Monday, October 23rd, with the other public high schools on Tinian and Rota and all public junior high and elementary schools following.

"We have already administered the survey in the private schools" added Mr. Villagomez, "but we had a very poor return rate with the parental permission slips in some of the schools and grades. If we don't have enough students complete the survey then our sample won't be large enough to be valid. I cannot stress enough how important it is for the parents to sign this form and have it returned to the schools."

Ms. Inos suggested that parents even ask their 6th to 12th grade public school students for the forms if the students forget to give them to them.

According to Mr. Villagomez, the answers to the survey will be completely confidential and anonymous. The students will not put their names on the answer sheets or the survey booklets. The teachers will collect the answer sheets, which are just rows and columns of ovals, face down, so that they can't see any of the answers to the questions. Then the answer sheets will be placed in an envelope, sealed and shipped to Atlanta. The CDC will report the data by age and as a whole, but will not report anything specific about a class or a school. "They will be able to compare our results with that of all fifty states and other territories," he added.

Funding for the survey comes from the Tobacco Block Grant administered by the Community Guidance Center. The CNMl's participation in the survey will ensure that the block grant funds as well as other funds from the federal government continue to be made available to the CNMI.

The funds can be used for prevention programs, health education programs, youth activities, as well as treatment of health problems caused by tobacco use.

Tobacco use is a leading cause of illness in the CNMI as it is a contributor to heart disease, high blood pressure, and lung cancer.

Questions about the survey or the parental permission slip can be directed to Mona Manglona of the Community Guidance Center at 323-6560, or Jackie Quitugua of the Public School System at 664-3724.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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