29 States earning “F” or “D” Grades, Failing to Mandate Screening for Health Barriers to Learning
From Children's Health Fund, January 2018
The long-term prospects of the United States are wholly dependent on the educational success of its 74 million children. To ensure future prosperity, governments must set the necessary conditions that present all children with opportunities to succeed. Yet, a recent study by Children’s Health Fund indicates that significant policy gaps in more than half of US states may prevent millions of children from reaching their true potential.
The original study, entitled Missed Opportunities: Do States Require Screening of Children for Health Conditions that Interfere with Learning, published in PLOS ONE, explored which states mandate schools to require health screenings of their students and the extent to which seven specific health conditions, known as health barriers to learning (HBLs), were included. The seven health conditions included have been shown to substantially impede a child’s ability to learn in school.
The conditions are:
- uncorrected vision problems,
- unaddressed hearing difficulties,
- uncontrolled asthma,
- dental pain,
- persistent hunger,
- exposure to lead and
- unaddressed behavioral/mental health issues
With nearly one in five US children not receiving a well-child check up in the past year, millions of children limited by these conditions go undetected1 . The children at greatest risk—due to highest prevalence of disease, lack of diagnosis, and burden of untreated or undertreated HBLs—are those living in poverty2.
The results of the study are staggering. Authors found that only 24 US States plus Washington DC mandate that schools require students to have comprehensive health examinations at any point in the child’s enrollment. For the 26 remaining states, the study could not identify any requirements for health screenings at all. When mandated, student health examinations are typically only required at school entry. Washington DC is the only US government entity assessed that requires student health screenings annually. Of states that mandate schools to require student health assessments, only 12 plus DC require specific records to capture vital health information about each student. These records are known as school health forms, or school screening forms. However, the content included on these forms varies dramatically. No state requires screening for all seven of the HBLs listed above….
- Vision 1
- Hearing 1
- Dental 0
- Mental Health 2
- Asthma 2
- Hunger 0
- Lead 0
- Health Exam 1
- Total Score 7
- GRADE – ‘C’
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KGI: Health barriers impact learning