On this we should agree
By Sean Slade
There isn’t likely to be peace in the education world over charter schools and standardized testing, but on this we can and should agree: The need to focus attention on disparities among our youth in education and in health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control:
*Black and Hispanic youth still have a higher prevalence of asthma, being overweight, and Type 2 diabetes, compared to white youth.
*Hispanic youth experience proportionately more anxiety-related behaviors and depression than non-Hispanic white youth.
*Suicide rates among American Indians/Alaska Natives aged 15–34 years are more than two times higher than the national average for that age group.
And much of this can be related back to social determinants of health such as poverty, access to health care, environment, and education. For example:
*Twenty-seven percent of white children live in poverty, compared to 61 percent of black children, 62 percent of Hispanic children, and 57 percent of Native American children.
*Three-fourths of minority students attend high-poverty/high-minority schools, while only one-third of whites attend high-poverty/high-minority schools.
*These schools typically receive lower per-pupil spending allocations, have fewer advanced placement courses, have less-credentialed and -qualified teachers, experience higher teacher turnover, have larger class sizes, have less technology-assisted instruction, and lack school safety.
While the problems of youth health disparities are well-documented, little has been done to address how organizations and public health services that serve youth can work together better. Today, educators, health professionals, community members, and families, often work in isolation rather than in collaboration.
Public health agencies, while acknowledging the importance of high school graduation to reducing health disparities, often provide little guidance on what high-quality education and literacy development across the life span actually would require.
Likewise, while education-related public and private agencies have recognized the importance of health to academic achievement, little guidance has been provided as to how to achieve that end. In short, silos between the education and health communities are preventing minority and poor children from realizing their full potential to become healthy and productive citizens.
Last summer, a group of key health and education representatives – jointly hosted by the educational leadership organization ASCD and the Society for Public Health Education -- met to discuss how to break down these silos in order to reduce disparities. And quite surprisingly, there was agreement on what could be achieved and how:
*Refocus attention of youth health and well-being.
*Understand that factors that impact educational attainment may be health-related.
*Realize that conditions that lead to one health issue - obesity for example - may also lead to anxiety or alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use. In short, understand that health disparities do not exist in a vacuum, separate from other ailments or conditions.
This was the first in a series of meetings to see how health and education officials can work together better and how one area always impacts the other. And, since we know this to be true,, how do we break down the silos between agencies, between funding sources, and between traditional philosophical stances?
In the upcoming months, this group will be putting out recommendations on how health and education can better align and collaborate, as well as on common areas of youth health and well-being on which educators, health professionals, families, and community members can focus to ensure our youth are well-served, well-educated, and healthy.
It’s not "divide and conquer," but rather "strength in numbers."
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| January 28, 2011; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: Achievement gap, Guest Bloggers, Health, Poverty | Tags: achievement gap, anxiety-related behaviors, anxiety-related disorders, effects of poverty, environment and schools, health disparities, indian suicide rates, native american suicide rates, poverty and education, public health services, suicide rates
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