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Posted at 5:30 AM ET, 01/28/2011

On this we should agree

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Sean Slade, director of Healthy School Communities, part of the Whole Child Initiative at ASCD, an educational leadership organization.

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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By Valerie Strauss  | 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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Comments

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Posted by: bettyrubin28 | January 28, 2011 5:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry but this sends the wrong message to the nation in my view. We know there are health issues and when used as a crutch turns many into community hypochondriacs. We give them reason to stand still and wait for help. We throw them a life ring untethered and tell them not to worry, they will land downstream somewhere.

I agree we need to work on the healthy side. The technical side has only proven itself as a bottomless pit without a good return. Stop making health a crutch and start making it a theme. Stop making poverty a crutch and start making it a beginning. To the child, it is what it is. They cannot make much difference until they know the difference.

Posted by: jbeeler | January 28, 2011 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Health issues for poor/minority youngsters are clearly an important factor for their success in school.

My question; which is greater, those from the poor/minority cohorts with health issues or the apparent majority of these groups with cultural issues, such as not placing enough value on the importance of an education?

While I have all the empathy in the world for a youngster who is having trouble concentrating in school because he has a toothache or has some kind of hearing or visual impairment, I don't see this as the stumbling block preventing many of these kids from learning. Rather, it seems to be the ubiquitous community attitude that the teacher don't know nothing and school is a but a stupid waste of time.

In addition, many of these families have Medicaid, or relatively free health care. So the mother needs to get the kid to the dentist for the toothache, or to the GP for other ailments but don't use these ailments as the excuse for these groups do so poorly in school.

Posted by: phoss1 | January 28, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

"but don't use these ailments as the excuse for these groups do so poorly in school."
I had a recent conversation with a former student in his mid-20's, an archetype urban Black male: unwed parent, working poor, experienced the wrong side of the law at a point in his life, raised by grandparent. He said the following:
" I've realized that from the age of 18 on, everything that's happened in my life has been my own damn fault."

This young man is now more in control of his destiny than ever before, and I have faith that he will live long & prosper. If we spend more time encouraging his attitude of responsibility versus dependence, many more will be on the same path.

Posted by: pdexiii | January 28, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

A few effective and simple suggestions:

- Breastfeed!!!! (see report link below)

- Teach students about the reproductive risks associated with maternal obesity.

- Give students/parents a basic overview of environmental health. (i.e., roach poo and its relationship to asthma, mold, combustion by-products (indoor and outdoor), etc.

- Bring back some elements of the old fashioned home economics classes to schools. Call the class (which, correctly implemented, could actually be one of the most educationally stimulating classes in the school) 'Food and Culture' or something. Make it interdisciplinary - plenty of biology, chemistry, history, and geography to provide interesting aspects of study, discussion, and writing. And yes, teach students to evaluate nutritional content of foods (including methods of cooking to maintain nutrients), proper use of adding complimentary spices to foods, food safety, etc. Let them cook and share dishes during class. Introduce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Will such a program be costly? Could be, but not nearly as much as medical costs associated with lifelong poor health. Spend some now or spend much more later.

Oh, and an interesting article with helpful suggestions from Indian Health Service (within the US Dept. of Health and Human Services:

"Breastfeeding, Diabetes and Obesity"
http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/MCH/M/bfDiabetes.cfm

Posted by: shadwell1 | January 28, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Why don't we just hire government employees to go around and make sure parents/kids know how to use toilet paper? I mean, if we're gonna take care of everybody and absolve people of all responsibility, let's go all the way. We need a detailed explanation from the government on how to use toilet paper appropriately. Somebody get to work on that.

Posted by: peonteacher | January 28, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I have a possible solution: Don't let the kids go home. Raise them at school. Build some dormitories for them to live in. Have doctors, dentist, or whomever come to the school to give them check-ups. Force teachers to stay at the school as well. They can work with them on their school/home work. They can read to them at night. They will have more time to help The Children. We will make teachers slaves to The Children's future.

But let's not stop there: once the economically disadvantaged give birth, they have to forfeit their babies over to The School; they do so make bad decisions. All ties between the family and the child will be removed [h]. Only then can we finally hold those "excuse-filled" teachers accountable[i].

If this happens,

we will live in a world where teachers will finally be able to teach students how to use a colon (and not confuse it with a semi-colon)[p];

we will live in a world where teachers will finally be able to teach students how to avoid double-negatives so they do not sound like fools [h];

we will live in a world where logic reigns and students learn how to read and write in a critical fashion [o];

and we will live in a world where people acknowledge their mistakes in an open and public format[s].

O What a wonderful world it would be [s].

Posted by: DHume1 | January 28, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

@DHume1:
Funny, but too close to the logical track you'd follow to solve poverty's impact on education. This is more proof that teachers are neither trained nor responsible for solving poverty. If we want teachers to resolve poverty, then you must expand the responsibility, training, and compensation of teachers and the edu-bureaucracy. The pejorative 'Nanny State' seems appropriate; the voting public must decide if it's desirable.

Posted by: pdexiii | January 28, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Funny how there is no mention of the Asian community. Perhaps including those figures would skew the results to show that it is a culturally driven phenomena whether a group largely succeeds or fails.

Posted by: member8 | January 28, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"According to the United Nations Special Session on Children and the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is the most cost-effective way to promote health and prevent disease." Healthy - conducive to learning too.

http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/assets/pdf/checked/No%20Cost%20Big%20Benefit--Breastfeeding%20Promotes%20Health%20and%20Prevents%20Disease.pdf

Posted by: shadwell1 | January 28, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Some of the health concerns discussed here can be addressed through school curriculum, at least as reinforcement. Particularly in High School, when students generally have more control over their own lives, classes/activities that link exercise, healthy foods, mental health, etc. are important.......

If all the attention just stays on reading and math test scores, then I suppose, we may look forward to more obese, mentally unstable and myopic students.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | January 28, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

If any university researchers are reading this blog, please, please do what you
can to insist on fairness and accuracy in testing. Do not base your research findings on testing results produced by schools or districts. Believe me when I say many of these results are invalid. Did School B go from the 13th to the 90th percentile on standardized tests? Insist on doing your own testing for the purpose of verification. If the school or district does not agree, please don't accept their results for your study. Careful research will go a long way in helping to provide each child with a good education. Thank you.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 28, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

@Dhume1 -- you have far too much time on yo hands. Get to work, eh?

Posted by: axolotl | January 28, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse


Free Samples are offered for a limited time so when they are posted please take advantage of the offer before it is gone. Look online for "123 Get Samples" where I was able to get healthy product samples.

Posted by: lindanancy29 | January 29, 2011 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Many good suggestions here. I too think breastfeeding answers a whole slew of problems for infants. However, many moms may work one or two jobs. Breastfeeding is not the answer for them now, the way our country works, it is difficult. Breastfeeding while working is hard work and a strain to put it mildly.

I do think we have to keep in mind that we don't want a caste system. People need good health care, including mental health care. We also need everyone who lives and works in our country to be educated. We do not need a second class system, especially not an official, government condoned one. If you are born here, you get rights.

Posted by: ubblybubbly | January 30, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

ubblybubbly,

Regarding the issues of breasfeeding and the working mom, I believe the culture is changing. Even Obama has made some headway in the area of breastfeeding in the workplace (google - Obama breastfeeding - google those two terms within the news category). The WIC program now gives some assistance for breast pumps and such. As far as the moms that are unable to breastfeed, I believe that scientific understanding/knowledge of the components of breastmilk are better understood now, and some formulas are closer to the ideal (vs. even several years ago).

Posted by: shadwell1 | January 30, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

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