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Southern Illinois University Carbondale assumed a central role in revolutionizing health education when it hired Elena M. Sliepcevich in the early 1970s. Just a decade earlier, as director of the groundbreaking national School Health Education Survey, Sliepcevich had spearheaded research to support development of national standards in public school health education and training for teachers. With the addition of Judy C. Drolet and Paul D. Sarvela, SIUC innovated responses to such challenges as HIV/AIDS and rising drug abuse among rural youth. The commitment of Sliepcevich and her colleagues to research driven solutions remains on the cutting edge as schools address modern challenges, including the proliferation of guns and widespread childhood obesity.
Crucially, through the use of national and local surveys and focus groups, Sliepcevich and her colleagues worked to understand teachers' perspectives and advocate practical implementation of programs in the schools, bridging the gap between theory and practice. While they made great strides, support for schools must continue, and it is hoped that preserving the stories of these health education leaders will continue to inspire researchers and practitioners in the field of health education. Meeting the unpredictable health challenges of the 21st century will require the energy and dedication modeled by the SIUC Health Education Department.