Tips for Improving Student Health and Learning
The Education Commission of the States have released a study linking student health to classroom learning. Learn how you can help keep students healthy and focused in school.

New findings from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) have highlighted a definite link between student wellness and learning in the classroom. According to the August 2015 study titled, “Health barriers to learning and the education opportunity gap,” illness can affect everything from attendance to performance in class.

Vision impairments, poor diet and exercise, undernourishment and bad sleep habits all can negatively impact classroom learning. Research shows that in communities battling poverty, these conditions are a very serious problem.

Discovered Health Barriers

According to the ECS report, there are several health barriers students can face. They include:

  • Asthma affects 13% of students under the age of 18
  • Annually, 20% of high school students report being violently bullied
  • Over 12% of 12-17 year olds have been diagnosed with attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Teen pregnancy affects 6% of 15-to 19-year-olds student population annually
  • Visual impairment affects 20% of low income youth
  • Two out of three students report they don’t get enough of physical activity
  • 14% of high school students reported skipping breakfast daily

Learning disabilities have the biggest impact in the classroom and the rates of occurrence can vary according to household income, according to the findings. The report also found that ADHD is more likely to be prevalent in households earning less than $35,000 a year (afflicting 12% of children ages 3-17). In comparison, households earning over $100,000, have an ADHD occurrence rate of 8.8%.

How Can Schools Help?

There are several things schools can do to help students stay healthy and focused. When it comes to health as a barrier to student success in the classroom, some schools have decided to take matters into their own hands. Denver-based Charter School, Academy 360, provides students with free lunch and recess to promote extra physical activity throughout the day. School faculty and staff also partner with parents to help implement healthy habits for children while they’re at home.

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Additional Tips from the ECS

  • Follow the Beaten Path: The ECS report recommends utilizing programs with proven track records of success. It can be easy to get swayed by initiatives that sound good in the planning stages but don’t improve student health or academic performance in the long run. Specifically, it recommends programs like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s youth initiatives.
  • Work Together: There are many different options to choose from when it comes to healthcare for students. This can help school officials because they have many different programs and initiatives to compare against each other, but it may make it harder to keep everyone organized and on the same page. The ECS recommends designating a point of contact to make sure resources are allocated correctly.

Moving Forward

Students need motivation to learn. These health tips can help make things easier by removing some potential barriers to success, such as fatigue from unhealthy sleep and eating habits. By these health inhibitors, millions of children can be better equipped to find success in the academic realm.


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