Alongside communities across the country, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is promoting Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. This important observance is held every October.
In 2004, HRSA launched the first Federal anti-bullying campaign to raise awareness about this very serious issue. Ten years later the extent and impact of bullying, particularly on children, continues to be a concern in communities across the country. HHS data underscore the extent of this problem. Nationwide, 20% of students in grades 9-12 for example, report they have experienced bullying. Just as communities are moving from awareness to action to address this problem, the federal government is too. In fact, three federal agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Department of Justice are actively engaged in efforts to prevent bullying.
What families and communities may not know is that the Affordable Care Act can help children and their families directly. For example, with the expansion of health insurance coverage, more children have access to screening by their health care providers for involvement in bullying. This is because most health insurers are required to cover pediatric well-child visits that include this important service recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Individuals and families can sign-up for coverage or renew their existing coverage through www.healthcare.gov beginning on November 15.
In addition, for the past decade HRSA has also engaged in efforts to research bullying and its harmful effects, develop and disseminate training modules for providers, teachers, and parents, and compile a community action toolkit - PDF to help local leaders build a coordinated, unified approach to preventing bullying.
HRSA continues to pursue new strategies to protect the health and well being of children by focusing sharply on preventing bullying. For 2015, HRSA has proposed new national performance measures for the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant program that all states receive. One proposed measure tracks bullying prevalence. This action stands to alert and activate state health departments and their partners across the country to further engage bullying as a public health problem and demonstrate leadership in efforts to keep kids safe.
HRSA recognizes that the only way to eliminate bullying is with strong partners in the community that know how to recognize bullying, intercede, and prevent it from occurring in the future. The good news is that we have tools to help individuals, families and communities to do exactly that. I encourage you to visit www.stopbullying.gov to learn about how you can engage in this important effort.