On average, some minority groups have higher rates of problems with vision and hearing, and lower rates of physical activity.
A new report from the Education of the States suggests that health could be a significant cause of the gaps in academic achievement among students of different races and economic circumstances.
The report, prepared by a professor from Teachers College at Columbia University and three officials from the Children’s Health Fund, used data from the Centers for Disease Control, recent National Health Interview Surveys and other sources to compare the prevalence of various health issues, such as asthma and ADHD, across different ethnic and economic groups.
Among the findings: Nearly 11 percent of Hispanic students have some form of uncorrected sight problems, compared with 8.4 percent of black students and 5 percent of white students. More than 27 percent of black, high-school girls report they are sedentary, compared with 23 percent of Hispanic girls and 16 percent of white girls.
Low-income students fared even worse in several categories. Among students with family income below the poverty level, 12 percent had uncorrected vision problems. The prevalence of ADHD was also higher in students from low-income families (11.7 percent among those with incomes lower than $35,000 and 8.8 percent for those making more than $100,000).
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Health issues are important, the report’s authors said, because they not only can affect how much students learn while they’re in school, but also can lead to chronic absenteeism.
School health is not a panacea for improving academic achievement, they added, but access to quality health care is one promising strategy for helping children escape poverty.
The solutions they suggest include more opportunities for physical activity, school-based health centers, and the expansion of social-emotional learning programs.