Why should I care?
When asked for one thing that his community should do to improve the health of its residents, Adewale Troutman, former director of the health department in Louisville, Kentucky, said: "Make sure that everyone graduates from high school."1 So, why would someone from the city’s health department have schools on his mind?
High school graduates tend to lead longer and healthier lives than their peers who drop out.2 This is partly due to a graduate’s ability to earn more money and afford better health care and housing in safer neighborhoods. But by completing a high school education, graduates also have an opportunity to learn more about healthy behaviors such as healthy eating and physical activity. Graduates are more likely to practice these healthy behaviors and ultimately have a better chance of growing a strong social support network.
While high school graduation rates reached a record high in 2013-2014, at more than 84 percent,3 high schools still lost more than 750,000 students to dropout in 2012.4 Many of these students don’t graduate because they have to get a job or provide care for a relative or child. Common barriers to graduation include bullying, absenteeism, undiagnosed or unmanaged physical and mental health issues, and chronic stress related to social and environmental circumstances.
To help at-risk students overcome such barriers to graduation, APHA is pushing for school-based health centers that help students with their physical, mental and social well-being in their teen years so they can graduate and be healthier for the rest of their lives. The results are very promising: 5
- Students who receive mental health services at school-based health centers have 50 percent fewer missed days of school.
- African-American boys enrolled in school-based health centers are three times more likely to stay in school.
What can I do?
Tell Congress to support community-based prevention. The Affordable Care Act set aside $200 million dollars to fund more than 700 school-based health centers between 2011 and 2013. However, that funding has since expired. Urge Congress extend critical federal funding for school-based health centers, which are often the only source of health care for vulnerable students.
Support SBHCs. As of 2013-2014, more than 2,300 school-based health centers were serving students in nearly every state and Washington, D.C. But many more families could still benefit from their services. Find out whether your school district has one, and if it doesn't, become a local champion for creating a school-based health center in your community. You’ll be helping students in your community graduate and be healthier for life.
Become a mentor. Positive adult relationships are critical for the health and well-being of children and adolescents. School-based health centers are known for building strong bonds with students. Contact local programs in your community for mentorship opportunities!
SIGN OUR PLEDGE to create the healthiest nation in one generation!
1 APHA Center for School, Health and Education, Graduation is a Public Health ROI.
2 CDC: Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue
3 National Center for Education Statistics
5 APHA The Dropout Crisis: A Public Health Problem and the Role of School-Based Health Care
6 School-Based Health Alliance, National Census of School-Based Health Centers