It’s Rush Hour

We are down to the final days before Holiday Break!  It’s rush hour out there as we squeeze the gift buying, decorating, baking and holiday events into an already busy life.  How are you doing?  Are you feeling rushed, tired, broke?  Is the “to do” list in your mind getting longer and longer?  Hold that thought, in fact, hold all your thoughts for just a moment and breathe.  

Now ask yourself this?  What is one word your kids would use to describe you right now?  Happy, content, fun or would it be frantic, frustrated, tired or impatient?  Keeping up tradition, making memories or pleasing Grandma are well intended but they can backfire on parents.  Children have fresh, fertile minds.  They are unaware of what tradition your are trying to keep alive or what childhood memory you want to recreate.  I can assure you however, that they are aware and will remember the emotions coming from the most important person in their lives, their parents!  

Give this a try!  Turn your “rush hour” into “hush hour.”  Tell your thoughts to hush, then just float in blissful silence.  The childlike playfulness you’ll feel will take you by surprise.  Best of all your kids are making a memory of a happy and fun holiday!

Barb Flis, Founder – Parent Action for Healthy Kids

I Appreciate You!

This time of year we hear a lot about gratitude and the importance of being grateful.  I noticed, especially this past week, after receiving a compliment, an edge of awkwardness, a resistance to appreciating and really savoring the compliment. Our human brain has a negativity bias, it’s wired that way to keep us alert when danger lurks. It has been said that positive comments are like Teflon, they slide right off and negative comments are like Velcro®, they stick!  We can re-wire our brain so negativity is not the default.  Consider the calm and contentment that we can all experience in receiving and appreciating.

Here is a perfect example: 

Once a week I am at an elementary school helping the staff with family engagement.  I was having lunch with a group of elementary teachers this week. We were discussing how Parent/Teacher Conferences went.  I asked them to tell me a positive story from conferences. They thought for a few moments, then a first year teacher very humbly shared how a Dad told her how well his son is doing this year.  Last year at this time he had 8 pink slips and this year so far only one.  “Wow,” I said. “Savor that, let’s just all take that in for a moment and feel the appreciation that dad has for you, his son’s teacher!”  I asked her who she shared that story with, she said her parents.  The large group of her teacher colleagues at the table all cheered and congratulated her.  Their faces reflected a shared understanding of the vocation of teaching. “Now”, I said, “can you take it one step further and call or email the Dad and tell him how much his words meant to you, especially as a first year teacher”? This will allow the appreciation to come full circle and an authentic connection will be made.

Giving for many is easy, receiving appreciation, not so much.  Life speeds along as if we are in a race to the finish line.  It is only when we slow the pace and take a pause can we notice, appreciate and savor the moment.  It takes vulnerability to open our hearts to receive, savor and acknowledge.  Humans all have a need to be seen and understood. Giving and receiving appreciation is how we can create a community of belonging in our home, schools, workplace and community.  I appreciate you!  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Barbara Flis, Founder

Parent Action For Healthy Kids

Why Family Engagement?

Engaging families to work in partnership with schools and communities improves the chances for student success in school, and throughout their lives. Family engagement promotes student equity, which is crucial to the nation’s increasingly diverse student body.

Involving families in their students’ education in a meaningful way can be challenging for state agencies and school districts that are looking to simply meet a “family engagement” requirement.

By reframing how staff thinks about family engagement and infusing guiding principles throughout health and education systems, families can be partners in their students’ education and well-being.

Sex ed may be a class, but experts say the best education begins at home

Whether Josh Jaime and his 17-year-old son, Solomon, are in the car, jogging around Kensington Metropark or powering through strawberry waffles at IHOP, they always end up talking sports.

It’s usually recapping the recent Detroit Tigers game or running through stats for Tigers catcher Brian McCann, Solomon’s favorite player. But occasionally there are deeper topics — like when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punched his then-fiancée into unconsciousness in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

“We’ll take those examples and we’ve turned them over into conversations we can have about sex,” says Jaime, a single dad from Novi, Michigan. “(And topics like) drinking and how to treat a woman. To him, it’s very relevant. He follows baseball, he follows football, these are his heroes. (I tell him) ‘This is the way you wanna be and this is the way you don’t wanna be. If you are this way, this is what the consequences are.'”

Jaime wasn’t always so comfortable bringing up sex and healthy relationships — despite a deep parental desire to do so. But thanks to some training and parent education through his local school district in Michigan, he’s now got solid information and said he feels empowered to talk, and keep talking, about these crucial topics — blending them almost seamlessly into the regular conversational cadence of life.


Josh Jaime and his son, Solomon, 17, take in a Detroit Tigers baseball game at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. | Provided by Josh Jaime

As a parent, he sees himself as his son’s first and most important educator, but appreciates the backup Solomon gets from high school sex ed classes and rejects the idea that parents and schools have to be at odds over this topic.

His stance is echoed by many experts who believe that when the topic of sex ed devolves into an argument over ideological approaches — abstinence-based versus comprehensive sex ed — it overlooks the most powerful factor in any school’s sex ed curricula: parental involvement.

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Parents can be a powerful force, but only if they have information, connections and encouragement — like specifics about curriculum options and the needs of kids in their local school, relationships with schoolteachers and other parents and a sense that their voice matters.

“Sex education programs may give information, but attitudes, beliefs, values and modeled behaviors often take place elsewhere, (like in) the family,” says Kim Miller, senior adviser for youth prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Center for Global Health.

“In a perfect world,” Miller continues, “we would better equip parents and caregivers to support lifelong sexuality education — that begins in the home and embraces the values and beliefs of the family.”

Putting parents first


When teens were asked in a national poll who most influences their decisions about sex, 52 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds said it was their parents. Only 1 percent said teachers and educators.

For the 16- to 19-year-olds, 32 percent said parents’ voices were the most important, with friends coming in close behind at 28 percent. Only 3 percent said teachers were most influential for their sex-related decisions, according to the survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

“Parents are the primary, we are the secondary,” says Samantha Bushman, CEO of the nonprofit “Talk, the New Sex Ed,” which she calls an alternative approach to sexuality education. She wants to stop the polarized discourse around the topic and return parents to the leading, but supported, role as sexuality educators for their children.

“Parents spend 18 years with them, so as an educator, my responsibility and my duty is to support and empower parents,” she says. “I always defer to the parents, they’re the best experts on their kids.”

But parents don’t feel like experts, especially when it comes to talking about sex, Bushman says. So the Pittsburgh program starts by working with parents in an after-school setting, giving them a conversational framework and assuring them that talking about sex won’t encourage risky behavior. From there, trained “near-peer” educators facilitate classroom discussions with teens and teach decision-making and critical-thinking skills that go beyond rote memorization.

A growing number of programs are working to involve parents more by offering homework assignments and activities for teens and their parents throughout the curricula, knowing that an ongoing, years-long conversation at home will be much more impactful than a dozen hours at school.

In the comprehensive sex ed program “Get Real,” each classroom lesson is followed with a family homework assignment, which allows parents to see what was taught and add their own family values. The relationship-focused sex ed programs “Love Notes” and “Relationship Smarts PLUS” do similar things, with parent/teen connection activities that provide parents with talking ideas and even specific words to use.

By making sex ed a team effort, Bushman hopes parents and teens will focus their conversations on issues like: What age should I start dating? What does a good relationship partner look like? When is sex appropriate and not appropriate?

Then topics like basic anatomy, puberty, sexually transmitted disease testing — can be discussed in classes with trained professionals, a division kids already seem to prefer, Bushman says.

Schools involving parents

Yet, if parents aren’t OK with certain information coming from the school, they should have the right to opt their child out and tackle that side themselves, many advocates and educators say.

“(Parents) absolutely rule,” says Barb Flis, founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids. “If they don’t want their kids to participate, that’s OK, thanks for telling me that. I’m not going to judge.”

For the last decade, Flis has worked with hundreds of school districts in Michigan to increase connection between parents, communities and schools on important health issues like sex ed, school nurses, physical activity and nutrition. She’s also in the business of breaking down stereotypes, like the ones that say parents aren’t interested, won’t participate or are even adversarial toward school initiatives, particularly sex ed classes.

As someone who became involved as an interested parent, Flis knows many parents want to be involved, but along with their busy schedules, just lack a foundation.

Most schools, including those in Utah, approach sex ed by sending out letters informing parents of the approaching course and requiring a signature before kids can be taught. Letters also often invite parents to “come look at the curriculum” if they’d like.

Most parents don’t “go look” because that invitation is akin to handing Flis a stack of documents describing different mortgage options and saying, “pick the best one for your home.”

“I’m not in the mortgage business,” she says. “I need it translated into a language that I can understand — what does it mean for me as a homebuyer? It’s no different with any kind of curricula, especially sex ed curricula, which is very personal. How are you translating what you are doing in the classroom into something that I can understand as a parent? Then, at that point, I can decide if this is something I want for my child.”

Flis works to improve communication around this topic by working with school districts and their sex ed advisory committees, as well as with parents through her “Talk Early & Talk Often” workshops, and has even done day-long Saturday events where parents came, had potential curricula presented by teachers, heard from a panel of teens about the issues they face in school, and talked with other parents about potential concerns and questions.

In all of her work, she relies on data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, or YRBS, which monitors health risk behaviors, including sexual behaviors, in young adults across the country. Flis says those figures help parents and educators use facts, instead of emotions or perceptions, when discussing the challenges teens face and what should be done to help them.

Flis has found that once parents understand what their teens need, and what effective programs really include (or don’t) they move beyond assumptions or decades-old experiences and become the biggest supporters.

And when the parents and schools are on the same page, they can choose the best evidence-based program for their community.

In Utah, state law requires that teachers use an abstinence-based curricula, which conveys a strong message of abstinence but allows for some discussion of contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Of the 41 school districts in the state, only Canyons, Jordan and Provo districts have chosen a more limited abstinence-only approach, as each district has the freedom to decide, under state law, how they want to teach human sexuality, said Linda Mayne, health specialist for the Utah State Board of Education.

Utah’s law also forbids teaching in four categories: the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation, erotic behavior, etc. 2. The advocacy of homosexuality. 3. The advocacy or encouragement of the use of contraceptive methods. 4. The advocacy of sexual relations outside of marriage or sexual promiscuity.

Worried that current law might confuse providing information with advocating, in January Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, will reintroduce a bill that would allow districts and parents in the state to choose a comprehensive sex ed curricula instead of an abstinence-based program. The bill would continue the policy of parental permission for students to attend the class but would give parents the option to give their child an expanded curriculum.

However, even using the term “comprehensive sex ed” may stir up unnecessary controversy, King said, because he’s much more concerned about increasing the teaching as it relates to healthy relationships, not just biological or anatomical facts.

“I want to talk … about how sexual relationships are multifaceted,” says King, “in a way that will cause thoughtful kids — and when taught the right way they will be thoughtful — to say, ‘You know what? Maybe instead of initiating with this person, I’m going to wait. And the reason I’m going to wait is I’m better educated and I understand more how significant this is, rather than just a lark in the back seat of my dad’s car.'”

Getting involved

Clemens Wittekind has always been an involved parent, eager to know what’s going on with his kids’ education.

So when his daughter and son reached elementary school, he started to ask other parents about the school’s approach to relationship education and whether they thought it was enough.

Wittekind knows these conversations aren’t easy, so he would break the ice by asking other parents about how their teens reacted to that scene in a popular movie, or how parents manage kids’ media time, or when they let their kids date.

Wittekind’s drive to get answers landed him on the PTA and later on a sex ed advisory committee at the district level in Michigan, where he helped choose a local curriculum.

“School districts want that,” said Wittekind, who now lives in Atlanta and whose children are 24 and 21. “They want parents who care. There are so many sex ed teachers that crave parent involvement in this and that’s what we need. That’s how it gets to be better for everybody, when people get beyond just speculating about what the district is doing, and digging in, finding out and getting involved.”


Not every parent needs to serve on a district board or be heavily involved in the PTA, he says. (His wife chose to serve in other ways.) But he believes that every parent should stay engaged in their child’s learning, because as parents, they are the first and best educator, no matter their child’s age or grade.

“One of the biggest things that parents have to bring to the table, what schools can’t, is moral issues,” said Wittekind. “This is where parents need to step up. You want your child to feel and know and have a little voice in their head about how you as a parent feel about this.”

“Nobody is an expert at this,” he added with a laugh. “You have a lot of people with whom you have that in common.”

Schools are unique environments where people with a variety of experiences, opinions and backgrounds join together with a common goal of helping raise strong, resilient kids. When parents are willing to engage in open-minded conversations with people they don’t know well or may even disagree with, and then work past the discomfort they feel, it’s a “huge step forward,” Wittekind says.

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Those conversations push the discussion beyond “abstinence” or “comprehensive sex ed” paradigms, (or maybe even start a discussion for the first time) and help parents really talk about what they want for their children, and what program would work best for their school community.

“With sensitive subjects like this, it’s amazing how many people start opening up, and you make connections,” Wittekind says, “especially when there’s sometimes painful things involved. You start sharing, you create deeper connections. That’s what life is about. That’s what makes our life richer.”


Sara Israelsen-Hartley

Edit in DNCMS


Parents Play a Key Role in a Safe Prom Night

Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids

Parents and supportive adults play a key role in empowering teens to choose to have a fun and safe prom night. Teens who report regular, open communication with their parents about important issues are more likely to care about their personal safety and less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drinking or using drugs and driving.

Here are a few tips for parents to consider:

Tip #1: Remind your teen to keep things in perspective. This is one event of many in their life. Prom, like graduation is a celebration of growth and moving forward, it is not meant to be celebrated as if it were the last event of their life.

Tip #2: Stand in the mirror with your teen. Tell them you love them and how happy and great they look. Tell them tomorrow you want to see that same happy teen. Impaired driving, or riding with someone who is impaired, can too quickly change the reflection in the mirror.

Tip #3: Send your teen off with a positive expectation for a fun and safe night. We tend to think that worrying shows that we care, but in reality it sends the message that we lack confidence in our teen.

Tip #4: Remember A3. They can call you Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere for help. No questions asked; you will be there.

Parents Don’t Have to be Tech Savvy to Teach Kids Cyber Safety

Parents are often overwhelmed by the constant changes and advancements in technology. The truth is parents of teens and pre-teens don’t have to be tech savvy in order to help their kids be digitally responsible. Parenting in the digital age requires these four acts of L-O-V-E:

L is for Limits! Limit the amount of time online and on the phone. Have a check in station upon arrival home for all electronic equipment.

O is for Overemphasize! Overemphasize the seriousness and consequences of sending text messages or pictures over the internet or cell phone.

V is for View! View what your teen is posting. Ask them their views on what they consider public and private and discuss it.

E is for Expectations! Be clear about your expectations. Let your teen know what you consider to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior when it comes to internet and cell phone use.

Parents interested in gaining additional skills in talking to their teens and pre-teens about cyber safety are invited to register for the Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Parent Connection Conference. The conference is being held on March 2, 2013 in Livonia, Michigan for parents of middle and high school aged youth. The workshop, Is Sexting, Texting and Social Media Hurting our Teens?, will help parents become aware of the benefits and pitfalls of digital connectivity in their teens life. This conference will be the first ever sex education conference exclusively for parents. For additional information and to register, visit

When on Twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #TPCC2013 when tweeting about conference, or when looking for tweets about conference.


Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids, is an advocate for parents and a published parenting and children’s health expert. Her focus lies in connecting families, schools and communities for the purpose of promoting the well-being of children’s social, emotional and physical health. Her “parent-to-parent” approach has garnered her much praise and national media attention. Visit for more information.

The Teen Brain is Under Construction: 5 Tips to Help Parents Get Their Teens Through Adolescence

Posted January 30th, 2013

The teen brain is mysterious. Parents often stand in disbelief as their teen’s behavior fluctuates from acting like a 22 year old one second to a 2 year old the next.  Believe it or not, this is actually normal behavior.  The teen brain is still under construction and differs greatly from an adult’s in the way it makes decisions and solves problems.

There are three main areas of the brain that are struggling to grow, interact, connect and develop during the teen years.  These three areas of the brain make up the pre-frontal lobes.  The pre-frontal lobes regulate logic, common sense, judgment, reality, and problem solving.  All of these skills are part of the journey that will continue until the mid-twenties when hopefully the brain becomes fully developed as an “adult brain.”

A perfect example of a teen brain under construction is 21 year old Manti Te’o!  Spoken like a true parent, Manti’s dad, said on Katie Couric’s show, “he’s not a liar; he’s a kid.”   Until a teen’s brain is fully developed they will struggle to develop mature problem solving skills and will make bad decisions.  Due to hormone surges there are a lot of emotional mood swings and struggles with sorting reality from fiction.

It may not always be easy, but a parent is still the biggest influence in a teen’s life and does not have to stand idly by. Parent Action for Healthy Kids offers these 5 tips for parents to help their teens make healthy choices while their brains are still under construction:

1.  Provide lots of physical contact, from hugs to rough housing;
2. Speak and show love as much as possible;
3. Constantly nurture by protecting, supporting and encouraging;
4. Communicate clearly without yelling and lecturing;
5. Allow teens to face logical consequences whenever possible.

Parents who would like to gain more knowledge about the adolescent brain, as it relates to sexual behavior and decision making, are invited to register for the Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Parent Connection Conference. The conference is being held on March 2, 2013 in Livonia, Michigan for parents of middle and high school aged youth. The keynote address, The Adolescent Brain: Under Construction, will humorously explore the mysteries of the adolescent brain. This conference will be the first ever sex education conference exclusively for parents. For additional information and to register, visit

Be sure to use the hashtag #TPCC2013 when tweeting about the conference, or when looking for tweets about the conference.

Parent Action for Healthy Kids Announces the First Ever Sex Education Conference Exclusively for Parents

Parent Action for Healthy Kids, with support from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education, is excited to announce the first ever sex education conference designed just for parents. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children and yet talking early and often about sex can be a real challenge for parents. The Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Parent Connection Conference will offer parents of middle and high school aged youth the opportunity to learn how to talk to their children about sex. The conference, loaded with workshops, will highlight the facts about sexually transmitted diseases, how to navigate through sexting, texting and social media, how parents can work together to support effective sex education and much more.

This first of its kind conference is the brainchild of Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.  Flis’ track record for parent workshops, webinars and trainings debunks the myth that parents don’t support sex education.
“Hosting a sex ed conference exclusively for parents has been a dream of mine since I first started working with parents on this topic,” said Flis.  “For nearly two decades I have been hearing from parents that they want more content and more information.  More than anything parents have said they want to connect with other parents for support. They are thirsty for information, and this conference will finally give them exactly what they are asking for.”

The conference keynote address, The Adolescent Brain:  Under Construction, will humorously explore the mysteries of the adolescent brain and how the adult and adolescent brain are different.  Also, for parents who want to hear the real deal unfiltered, the conference will close with a panel of teens engaging parents in an honest conversation about how to make the most out of parent/teen relationships. The keynote, youth panel, as well as conference workshops, will provide parents with the knowledge and skills necessary to help their children make it through adolescence.

The conference will take place Saturday, March 2, 2013 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the VisTaTech Center – Schoolcraft College, Livonia, Michigan. Conference fee is $25 / $35 after January 21.  Parents must pre-register; there will be no on-site registration the day of the event.  The conference includes a continental breakfast and lunch.

A pre-conference workshop, Roles & Responsibilities When Serving on Your School’s Sex Education Advisory Board, will be held on Friday, March 1, 2013 from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the VisTaTech Center – Schoolcraft College. The Pre-Conference is intended for parents who serve on a Sex Education Advisory Board (SEAB), or would like to learn more about the SEAB’s roles and responsibilities.  Pre-Conference registration is $25 and includes dinner.
Visit for conference information and to register.  Be sure to use the hashtag #TPCC2013 when tweeting about conference, or when looking for tweets about conference.


Talk Early & Talk Often℠ (TETO) was developed by Parent Action for Healthy Kids with support from the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education.  Since its roll out in 2005, it has received high praise from parents and media. The initiative has now expanded from workshops across the state of Michigan to a conference exclusively for parents in March 2013 and a growing social network for parents. The Talk Early & Talk Often Parent Connection Conference will be held in Livonia, Michigan.

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Wayne State The Magazine: Barb Flis Changing Lives

Wayne State alumni are making a difference in their community through their work and volunteer activities.


Life.Learn ‘02

“Reaching parents is my niche. It doesn’t seem hard to me, yet it is so stifling
to other people.”

When former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wanted to launch a pregnancy prevention
initiative for middle school-age children, her staff reached out to the Michigan Department
of Education and Michigan Department of Community Health. However, when it was decided
that someone on the task force should represent parents, staffers sent out the call to an
unassuming home in Farmington Hills.

“You’ve got to have Barb Flis,” they told the governor.

At the time, Flis (“rhymes with ‘bliss,’” she says with a laugh), who went on to establish
the organization Parent Action for Healthy Kids and become one of America’s leading advocates
for health and sex education in schools, wasn’t sure she wanted to be gotten.
“There I am, going to the governor’s office and meeting with her assistants,” she remembers.
“I’m thinking, ‘You can’t possibly want me.’ And they’re asking, ‘Is this something you
would like to do?’ I’m like, ‘Whoa!’

“So I come home and say to my oldest daughter, ‘Julie, I don’t know. This is big and she’s
the governor. One slip on this sex education stuff and she could be mud.’ Julie goes, ‘Mom!
Do us a favor and just take it! Because if you don’t, we’ll have to hear about how the person
they appoint could have done it better and that’s not how you would have done it. So just
cut to the chase and do it!’”

Flis, Life.Learn ‘02, has listened to her two daughters since they were schoolchildren
because she considers herself a mother above all. (Both grown, Julie lives in Royal Oak; Mary
teaches dance in Chicago.) But heeding their words and dedicating herself to their learning
environment frequently thrust Flis into situations far outside her comfort zone. She credits
— and praises — the interdisciplinary studies degree from Wayne State she earned as an
adult for helping her transform her commitment into a career while handling whatever challenges
it presents — even a call for advice from First Lady Michelle Obama.

“My daughters certainly played a part in my doing this work, but taking to this level, I
never could have dreamed it, charted it or set it as a goal,” says Flis, who receives federal
funding from agencies like the CDC to develop programs aimed at helping parents improve
kids’ health. “If you’re listening, the universe directs you to where you should go. I was
definitely directed to the (Wayne State) program because I’m an out-of-the-box thinker. I
felt so odd because of that, then I went to a program that encouraged it. It’s interdisciplinary
studies, and that’s what I do now.

“I work with parents and connect them, with schools and other parents. Because I got
so involved in Northville, I saw what schools had to go through, how parents felt, and I saw
the disconnect. It wasn’t intentional, but they weren’t putting themselves in each other’s
shoes. You have to be an interdisciplinarian to do that.”

Laurie Bechhofer, HIV education consultant for the Michigan Department of Health, says
Flis is passionate about improving the health and well-being of Michigan young people.
“She sees parents as true partners to engage, not just tacitly involve, in change,” Bechhofer
says. “She gets how to connect with people and inspire them to take action.”

Born in Detroit, Flis felt she “didn’t get the best education at all” in the private Catholic
schools she attended. “I wanted my children to get what I didn’t have, so I became really
involved in their education.”

She raised her daughters in suburban Northville, primarily because of its school system, and
became so invested as a volunteer that she was elected PTA president.
Even so, equipped at the time with only a two-year degree earned in the ‘70s from an area
community college, “I always felt everybody knew more than I did,” Flis admits. “I felt I didn’t
have an education. So I just kind of sat back. I was a silent observer.”

However, when a parent came to her and accused the school system of “hypnotizing” students
with its health education program, her one-woman investigation went from the principal
to the district curriculum director to a seat on the school board committee looking into the
coursework. From that point on, Flis became an energetic representative for parents.
“I’m sitting with people who have Ph.D.s and I knew nothing about curriculum, let alone
health education,” she recalls. “I think I felt so strongly about advocating for kids that I overcame
my fear of not feeling smart or confident enough to serve.

“I didn’t realize until I went back to school at Wayne State that I am a lifelong learner, and
I ask a lot of questions,” says Flis, who was active on Student Council and president of the
College of Lifelong Learning Student Senate despite being in her 40s. “I didn’t know that about
myself then. I’ll never forget my first class with Professor Roz Schindler, Introduction to Interdisciplinary
Studies. I can still feel the fear I had. I was so nervous. But once I started taking
classes, all of a sudden I realized that this odd person I felt that I was, always asking questions,
was actually embraced by these professors. They’re going, ‘Gosh, you ask good questions! Keep
asking them.’ So I know that now. Now I don’t care if it’s a stupid question. I ask it.”
She had a slew of questions last year when the White House came calling for guidance. Mrs.
Obama wanted input on the parent portion of her “Let’s Move” website to help end childhood

“You’ve got to have Barb Flis,” somebody at the CDC told her team. It was a bittersweet
acknowledgment: the same week she was flown to Washington, her father, Frank Patak, who led
the construction crews that enclosed Northland and Eastland malls, passed away.

“Several months later when they released the website I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, they actually
listened!’” Flis marvels. “I said, make it easy for parents, they need answers quickly, and take
away any language that is shaming or blaming. When our babies are born we automatically feel
inadequate as parents. We don’t need anybody else judging us.”

Flis continues to support “Let’s Move” on her own website,
“Everybody throws up their hands and says, ‘What can we do?’ How can we reach parents?’” she
says. “They say when you have a business you need a niche. Well, reaching parents is my niche.
It doesn’t seem hard to me, yet it is so stifling to other people.

“Then we have to work with schools to not get defensive when parents ask them questions.
It’s always both sides. We can both be teacher-learners.”
— Jim McFarlin


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Zeeland Parent Recognized as Grand Prize Winner in Health Champion Hall of Fame Contest

Posted May 17th, 2012

Lansing, MI – Amy Sheerhorn, a parent from Lincoln Elementary School, is the grand prize winner in the Michigan Department of Education’s Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame.  Sheerhorn was recognized for her involvement in shaping new health standards for snacks during school fundraisers and parties at Lincoln Elementary School.

Amy has helped make healthier changes in the school possible by being an active member of a parent advisory group that has implemented healthy snack alternatives in the schools snack shack. Not only is Amy recognized for standing as a strong health advocate in food programs at Lincoln Elementary School, but she also leads the Walk It school wide walking program, and has successfully engaged students to participate in the program events.

“With Amy’s passion for building a healthy lifestyle for our youth, and support of our school, the parent advisory group was able to bring healthy snack alternatives to Lincoln Elementary food programs,” said Kelly Adkins, who nominated Scheerhorn for Health Champion Hall of Fame induction.  “Thanks to Amy’s dedication and continuous advocating, students at our elementary school can choose nutritious snacks, and get involved in programs that promote physical activity. She not only is helping create a healthier school environment, but she is leaving a positive impact on the lives of all the students.”

Because of Sheerhorn’s dedication to making healthy the easy choice for students at Lincoln Elementary School and as a reward for induction into the Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan has made it possible for students at Lincoln Elementary to be treated to an afternoon with Former Detroit Lions All-pro, Herman Moore.  Moore will be onsite at the school on May 21, 2012 teaching students how to make a healthy “Power Smoothie” during their lunch time. 

The Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, which began in March, sought out nominations of parents who do their best to bring healthy options to students while they are at school. 

“We are thrilled to honor Amy Sheerhorn as the 2012 Health Champion grand prize winner,” said Nick Drzal, Michigan Team Nutrition Co-Director.  “It is parents like Amy that shape a healthy future for our students, and empower the rest of the community to get involved, and become health advocates as well.”


About Michigan Team Nutrition

Michigan Team Nutrition is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to the Michigan Department of Education. It is a national initiative designed to motivate, encourage, and empower schools, families and the community to work together to continually improve school meals and to make food and physical activity choices for a healthy lifestyle.  It is a team effort that involves schools, families, and the community in providing nutrition education to kids.  Join Michigan Team Nutrition on facebook  and follow them on Twitter at


# # #


In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).  Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Lisa Gill

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Rockford Parent Recognized as Runner Up in Health Champion Hall of Fame Contest

Lansing, MI – Dana Kraus has been recognized as the runner up in the Michigan Department of Education’s Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame.  Kraus was recognized for her dedication to creating healthy environments through healthy fundraising tactics at Lakes Elementary School in Rockford.

Kraus, along with the Lakes Elementary PTO, created a fundraiser called “Move n’ Groove”.  The walk-a-thon encouraged students to make healthy choices and lead active lifestyles.  Students collected donations to Move’n Groove around a track at the school.  The walk-a-thon was made extra special and fun for students with music, hula-hoops, limbo, and other fun activities around the course. The fundraiser raised $14,500 to support classroom grants, library books, assemblies, DARE, musical adventures and other programs.

“Fundraising is important to most schools, but more important is the health and wellness of our students and staff,” said Jennifer Olsen, who nominated Kraus for Health Champion Hall of Fame induction.  “Dana’s ingenuity allowed Lakes Elementary to combine both fundraising and wellness into one successful and fun event. This is an event we will continue for years to come.”

The Michigan Team Nutrition Health Champion Hall of Fame, which began in March, sought out nominations of parents who do their best to bring healthy options to students while they are at school.

“We are excited that we have the chance to recognize Dana for her commitment and enthusiasm to creating healthy environments for young people,” said Nick Drzal, Michigan Team Nutrition Co-Director.  “Dana and Lankes Elementary are setting a great example for schools everywhere.”

About Michigan Team Nutrition

Michigan Team Nutrition is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant awarded to the Michigan Department of Education. It is a national initiative designed to motivate, encourage, and empower schools, families and the community to work together to continually improve school meals and to make food and physical activity choices for a healthy


lifestyle.  It is a team effort that involves schools, families, and the community in providing

nutrition education to kids.  Join Michigan Team Nutrition on facebook  and follow them on Twitter at


# # #


In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).  Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


Contact: Lisa Gill

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“Activist turns from sex ed to food ed for White House”

Posted May 27th, 2010

Thank you, Laura Berman, for supporting my Call to Action in your Detroit News column today! Read the column from today’s Detroit News below.

If you haven’t already, join my Call to Action for Parents and let’s work together, support each other, and raise healthier kids! 

May 27, 2010         The Detroit News  

Activist turns from sex ed to food ed for White House


It says something about these times in which we live that the state of Michigan’s go-to sex educator is turning her thoughts, and expertise, to another area that excites passions and desire: food.

Sex and food have much in common, says Barb Flis, including this central key to talking about either one: “You can’t blame them or shame them.”

Her sudden turnabout in subject matter is a direct result of a call from the White House in March, when Flis was summoned to Washington: The first lady’s team wanted to hear her thoughts about getting parents involved in kids eating healthier foods and exercising more.

At that point, Michelle Obama was preparing to roll out her “Let’s Move” program (“> Flis offered very specific expertise: For a dozen years, she’s been working with parents to help schools devise sex education curriculums. Her forte is defusing the emotion around a sensitive subject and getting people to talk — and to understand the importance of good information, rationally delivered.

What works for sex ought to work for food.

With childhood obesity rates at epidemic proportions, and the first lady campaigning to intervene, Flis opted to help: If her advice was useful to Washington, why not help with the effort, she reasoned.

“The government isn’t going to be able to create change,” says Flis. “Parents are going to have to.”

Now she’s reaching out to activists like Rachael Hilliker, a Lansing-area government worker and mom, who is screening “Two Angry Moms,” in Lansing next month — a documentary about two women who declared war on their local school lunch program and actually created change.

She’s made contact with a couple of Chelsea neophyte gardeners who named their community vegetable gardening effort, undertaken with the help of a master gardener, “Two Dirty Virgins and a Hoe.”

See? There’s that link between food and sex again. “There are a lot of similarities: It’s all about practicing good behaviors, good habits, thinking critically about how you act — or eat,” she says.

And she’s incorporated Obama’s official “Let’s Move” banner into her own website, Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Flis is working on a statewide survey of parents that will canvas health habits, the state of school lunch programs, and how parents plan meals and snacks.

Activists like Hilliker — who sees herself launching a grass roots effort to force healthier school lunches — are part of her focus. But after a decade of talking about sex with parents and teens, she believes in the wisdom of a gentle approach.

As an advocate for making good choices, Flis was already a fairly healthy eater. But even she has adopted better habits over the past few months. She stopped eating sweetened low-calorie yogurt, switching to a high protein, unsweetened Greek-style brand.

She kicked the diet soda habit, after reading that artificial sweeteners can cause food cravings. Now she intends to quietly encourage others to change their behavior, in their homes.

Wary of being panned as a “food Nazi” or health nut, Flis is more educator than activist. She’s all in favor of small changes, duly rewarded.

So join the movement: Steam up a batch of broccoli and brown rice, exercise for 30 minutes, and congratulate yourself.

Laura Berman’s column runs Tuesday and Thursday in Metro. Reach her at“> or call (313) 222-2032

℠ Copyright 2010 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.

First-ever national standards for sexuality educations in public schools have been released

Posted January 25th, 2012

New Gold Standard for Sexuality Education in Public Schools.  I am happy to say that I assisted with the review process of these new standards to give the parent perspective. Let me know if you have questions. 

For Immediate Release – January 9, 2012

Four leading health organizations released the first-ever
national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in
the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality
Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide clear,
consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum,
core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and
age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American
Association of Health Education, the American School Health
Association, the National Education Association Health Information
Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical
Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education (FoSE)
Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical
and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and
young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

“These National Sexuality Education Standards provide teachers,
schools, school districts, and state education agencies with a new
national standard—the minimum they need to teach to set students on a
path to sexual health and responsible adulthood,” said Jerry Newberry,
Executive Director of the National Education Association Health
Information Network (NEA HIN). “They set forth essential sexuality
education core content and skills responsive to the needs of students
and in service to their overall academic achievement.”

For years, research has highlighted the need to provide effective,
comprehensive sexuality education to young people. The United States
has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrialized
world and teens bear a disproportionate impact of the sexually
transmitted disease (STD) and HIV epidemics facing our nation. One in
four sexually active teens has a STD and two young people every hour
become HIV positive. Furthermore, there is also a pressing need to
address harassment, bullying, and relationship violence in our
schools, which have a significant impact on a student’s emotional and
physical well-being as well as their academic success. The National
Sexuality Education Standards set the groundwork for the minimum of
what sexuality education should look like in America’s public schools.

“These standards are presented in a user-friendly way, making it
possible for a health education teacher or parent, say, of a
seventh-grader, to easily find out what is the next step in the
learning process for a thirteen-year-old in regards to sexual health,”
said Stephen Conley, Executive Director of the American School Health

The standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content
and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology; Puberty and
Adolescent Development; Identity; Pregnancy and Reproduction; Sexually
Transmitted Diseases and HIV; Healthy Relationships; and, Personal
Safety. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what
students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8,
and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

“The National Sexuality Education Standards translate an emerging body
of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can
be put into practice in the classroom,” said Brian Griffith, President
Elect of the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical
Education. “These standards, developed by education and health
professionals, present sexual development as a normal, natural,
healthy part of human development that should be a part of every
health education curriculum.”

The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address
the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and
the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health
education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even
less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School
Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of
Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to
instruction in HIV, pregnancy, and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in
elementary, 6 hours in middle, and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies
have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young
people succeed academically and programs that included health
education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes,
including reading and math scores.

To view the complete National Sexuality Education Standards, click
here. To schedule an interview, please contact Danene Sorace,
Consultant to the FoSE Initiative, at 717.585.0503.


The American Association of Health Education serves educators and
other professionals who promote the health of all people through
education and health promotion strategies.

The American School Health Association works to build the capacity of
its members to plan, develop, coordinate, implement, evaluate and
advocate for effective school health strategies that contribute to
optimal health and academic outcomes for all children and youth.

The National Education Association – Health Information Network works
to improve the health and safety of the school community through
disseminating information that empowers school professionals and
positively impacts the lives of their students.

The Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education utilizes
advocacy, partnerships, professional development and resources to
build the capacity of school health leaders to implement effective
health education and physical education policies and practices that
support success in school, work and life.

The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative is a partnership between
Advocates for Youth, Answer, and the Sexuality Information and
Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) that seeks to create a national
dialogue about the future of sex education and to promote the
institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in public
schools. To learn more and view the complete National Sexuality
Education Standards, please visit

About me

I’m Barb Flis, Founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids. I insist that every parent has the power to make a difference. I’m a parent guru, a published expert in advocating for children’s health, and most importantly, a mother of two daughters. My focus lies in connecting families, schools and communities on children’s social, emotional and physical health. Areas of work include asthma, diabetes, sex education, mental health, school wellness programs, physical activity and nutrition. I design and implement trainings and workshops for parents, teachers, school administrators, public health professionals and community-based organizations. I’m also motivational speaker throughout my home state of Michigan and across the United States.


School Attendance Myths

Kids come out ahead when schools and parents work together to keep all kids healthy and in school.  Did you know that one in 10 kindergarten and 1st grade students misses at least a month of school every year.  And do you realize the hours of precious class time used to repeat material to help children catch up.  If we can get schools to look at chronic absence patterns the answer will be clear …. working with parents and community to keep kids healthy and in school.  Click on this link to read more from Education Week Attendance Counts: 5 Myths about School Attendance by Hedy Chang.

Grand Rapids Family magazine October 2010 Issue

Moms Today: Calling for action

Michigan Mom Barb Flis was one of 10 parents nation-wide invited to the White House to help Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, designed to reduce childhood obesity and raise a healthier generation of children.

The Farmington Hills mother of two daughters has since launched her own grassroots initiative, Parent Action for Healthy Kids.




Fuel Up To Play 60 Kickoff to School Health

Posted September 24th, 2010

On Tuesday, September 28, I’m leading a group at the Fuel Up To Play 60 Kickoff to School Health at Ford Field in Detroit.  The kickoff will highlight the importance of student leadership in creating a healthy school environment where nutrient rich foods and physical activity are top priority.  Approximately 32 schools and 400 students and adults from throughout Michigan will be participating.

It is a really cool event and I’ll be a referee for a school team that consists of 5 middle school students and 5 adults/teachers from their school.

The First Lady is even getting in on the Fuel Up To Play 60 action taking place across the county.  This week, as part of her Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids, she joined children and NFL players for football drills during a Fuel Up To Play 60 event in New Orleans.

First Lady and the NFL's Fuel Up To PLay 60 program

In addition to the in-school wellness program, the NFL’s Fuel Up To Play 60 also hosts Youth Football Camps, flag football, and more. Go to to learn about events and camps in your area.  If you live in the Detroit area, get on the Summer Youth Football Camp mailing list for next year’s camp schedule.  Email your name, mailing address and phone number to and Play 60!

Here are excerpts from the official Detroit Lions press release about the Fuel Up To Play 60 program and kickoff event at Ford Field. Get your school involved in the Fuel Up To Play 60 program today!

Click here to view the press release in it’s entirety. 

The Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health; United Dairy Industry of Michigan; and the Detroit Lions are joining forces to support the Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health, which highlights Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school wellness program launched by the National Football League and National Dairy Council, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture. Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages kids to “fuel up” with nutrient-rich food choices and “to play 60” by getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Many children are overweight and undernourished—missing out on important nutrients because they are not making the proper food choices. With these health risks, it’s possible that today’s children could become the first American generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Students at the Kickoff will learn healthy eating and physical activity “plays”— action strategies that will help create healthier school environments.

“Students and staff who attend the Kickoff will learn ways to implement these lessons in their own schools by participating in hands-on activities, which we hope will inspire them to eat right, remain active, and encourage others to do so as well,” said Mike Flanagan, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Michigan Department of Education, “Youth are empowered to take action at their schools and develop their own road maps to better fitness and nutrition through Fuel Up to Play 60.”

The Kickoff’s pre-game and first half events include a well-balanced breakfast and an interactive session focused on the link between learning and movement, led by author and international speaker Jean Blaydes Madigan. In addition, rookie attendees will learn all about Fuel Up to Play 60 from “MVP Teams”, schools that implemented the program during the 2009-2010 school year.

Attendees will take the field for “training camp” where Detroit Lions’ Defensive End Kyle Vanden Bosch, Former Pro Bowler Luther Elliss, and the Detroit Lions’ trainers will lead students in NFL drills and skills. At halftime, a “Try It, You’ll Like It” tailgate lunch will encourage teams to sample new healthy menu selections, including whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables, and vote on items they think the fans in their school would like best.

During the second half, Go Comedy!, a metro-Detroit professional improvisational group, will perform skits on the importance of good nutrition and engaging in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and will lead an interactive workshop to help teams prep for Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoffs and Challenges in their own schools. The day concludes with Detroit Lions’ Kicker, Jason Hanson, and Elliss sharing tips on how professional athletes eat healthy and play hard for optimal performance.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 Kickoff to School Health is designed to inspire and motivate students to take action for their health by moving more and eating smarter, an overall win for Michigan health. For more information, log on to

About Fuel Up to Play 60
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and NFL, with additional partnership support from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods (low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by implementing long-term, positive changes for themselves and their schools. Customizable and non-prescriptive program components are grounded in research with youth, including tools and resources, in-school promotional materials, a website and student challenges. Fuel Up to Play 60 is further supported by several health and nutrition organizations: Action for Healthy Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association. Visit to learn more. Media resources, including related video footage and photos are available at

About National Dairy Council
National Dairy Council® (NDC) is the nutrition research, education and communications arm of Dairy Management Inc™. On behalf of U.S. dairy farmers, NDC provides science-based nutrition information to, and in collaboration with, a variety of stakeholders committed to fostering a healthier society, including health professionals, educators, school nutrition directors, academia, industry, consumers and media. Established in 1915, NDC is dedicated to educating the public on the health benefits of consuming milk and milk products throughout a person’s lifespan. For more information, visit

About NFL PLAY 60
Designed to help tackle childhood obesity, NFL PLAY 60 brings together the NFL‟s long-standing commitment to health and fitness with partner organizations like the National Dairy Council. NFL PLAY 60 is also implemented locally, as part of the NFL’s in-school, after-school and team-based programs. For more information, visit

Rachael Hilliker received the “Call” and “Took Action”

To support and raise awareness of September now being *Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, I would like to tell you about a parent who signed on to our Call to Action and is really taking action! 

In May I blogged about Rachael Hilliker.  She’s still taking action and is still as bound and determined as ever to change the food that is being served in public schools.

Rachael is hosting various screenings of “Two Angry Moms”, a documentary about food served in public schools and how we can change it through school gardens, nutrition classes, buying local farm foods, etc.  Following each screening Rachael will speak to parents about what parents and community members can do in regards to lobbying for change, grants for school gardens, and the upcoming AmeriCorps FoodCorps which will be placing service members in schools across the country to implement school gardens, farm to school programs and nutrition curriculum’s, as well as legislative lobbying.

If you are interested in attending a viewing, show times and locations are as follows:

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 will be hosting a free screening at 10am at Celebration! Cinemas in Lansing (on Edgewood Blvd).

Saturday, September 25th, 2010 Natural Families of Kalamazoo will be hosting a free screening at 5pm at People’s Church in Kalamazoo.

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 Slow Food Huron Valley and the Ann Arbor District Library will be hosting a free screening at 2pm at the library’s downtown main location in Ann Arbor.

Keep up the “Action”, Rachael!


*On March 26, 2010, a resolution was unanimously passed in the Senate to designate September 2010 as “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”, bringing national attention to a growing epidemic among youth in the United States.

Mom appointed president of adolescent sexual health organization

Posted September 15th, 2010

I am honored and excited to announce that on September 10, 2010 I was elected as the new board president of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH).  I look forward to working collaboratively with parents to address the growing number of teen births and the issue of adolescent sexual health. 

Here’s the official announcement and information about MOASH.

Mom appointed President of statewide adolescent sexual health organization

The Board of Directors of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH) recently announced the election of Barbara Flis as president.  The aim of the non-governmental state-level 501(c)3 is to provide statewide leadership on evidence-based approaches to adolescent sexual health and pregnancy prevention. Flis, mother of two and founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids, joined the MOASH board as treasure in 2009.  Flis’ responsibilities will begin in September.  

“We are truly blessed to have Barb Flis as our new president,” said Cheryl Gibson Fountain, MD, FACOG-President Wayne County Medical Society of Southeast Michigan and MOASH Board Member. “Barb is an extremely kind, caring, compassionate person who is well known and respected for her tireless dedication and work on behalf of our children, families and communities in our state.  I look forward to Barb’s leadership as she continues to play a key role in shaping the manner in which we serve the needs of our adolescents.” 

“I am honored to be elected President of MOASH”, said Flis. “Our board represents diverse organizations.  For this board to put at the helm a person representing the parent constituency, speaks volumes about the importance of working collaboratively to address the issue of adolescent sexual health.  For the first time in fourteen years the teen birth rate has increased.  The total cost to Michigan taxpayers with regard to teen childbearing, in Federal and state funds, was conservatively estimated at $302 million for 2004.  These public costs include lost tax revenue, health care, and child welfare costs.  If we want to create a vibrant workforce and brighter future for Michigan’s youth, families, and the economy then we must all take a vested interest.    Together we can empower young people in Michigan to make informed decisions on sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenthood.”

Flis has more than 15 years of experience advocating for children’s health issues and working collaboratively with parents, schools and community in the arena of health, HIV and sexuality education. She is a nationally recognized expert, keynoting conferences for professionals working in school health, teen pregnancy prevention, and parent engagement arenas. Her work coordinating the Michigan Talk Early & Talk Often℠ program, designed to help parents gain knowledge and skills to talk to their middle school children about abstinence and sexuality, has been cited in national press including Newsweek. Her inspiration for this work comes from her grass-roots experience being “just a parent” in a suburban Detroit community.

MOASH, established in 2009, empowers young people in Michigan to make informed decisions on sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenthood.  Their Mission is to provide statewide leadership on adolescent sexual health, pregnancy prevention and parenting, through education, advocacy, capacity-building and creative partnerships. For more information send an email to


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, founder of Parent Action for Healthy Kids and president of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH).