The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging schools to take a broad view of health, one that incorporates students and staff and a range of issues. Specifically, it has identified eight areas of well being that studies have shown to be correlated with academic achievement or with mental or physical health. The areas and sample studies are listed below. They are excerpted from a presentation by the Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. The complete presentation can be found online at www.thesociety.org.
Health services offered at school can improve academic performance. Study findings:Schools with school-based health centers report, on average, increased school attendance, decreased drop-outs and suspensions and higher graduate rates.
Students learn better when they are well-fed. Study findings: School breakfast programs increase academic achievement, reduce visits to the school nurse and decrease behavioral problems.
Counseling, Psychological and Social Services
Good mental health contributes to learning. Study findings:Children who participated in a social service intervention aimed at improving parent-child and parent-teacher communication also improved students’ academic performance.
Health education can improve student behavior. Study findings:Students who participated in a two year social decision-making and problem-solving program in elementary school showed more pro-social behavior and less antisocial and self-destructive behaviors when followed up in high school four to six years later.
Exercise helps kids learn more. Study findings: Physical activity is positively related to academic performance, and in adolescents, to higher self-esteem and lower levels of anxiety and stress.
Healthy School Environment
Students are affected by physical conditions in their school building, such as the quality of lighting, temperature, appearance, cleanliness and presence of harmful chemical agents. Study findings:An improvement in a school’s physical condition by one level, from, say, poor to fair, is associated with a 5.5 percentage point improvement in average achievement scores.
Health Promotion for Staff
Healthy teachers benefit students. Study findings: When teachers are healthier, they miss school less often, are more energetic and create a more optimistic school climate.
Drawing on outside resources to improve student health can also improve student learning and self-control. Study findings:Community activities that link to the classroom raise academic achievement, reduce suspension rates and improve student behavior.