One in four children in the United States has chronic physical or mental health issues that affect their ability to succeed in the classroom, double the number just 30 years ago.
These health issues, which include anxiety, vision and hearing deficits, and lack of dental care, can have a significant impact on children’s long-term health as well as their opportunities to learn. Left untreated or undermanaged, they can adversely affect children’s attendance, their ability to see, hear and pay attention in the classroom, their ability and motivation to learn, their academic performance, and even their chances of graduating from high school.
In addition, students in underserved communities, particularly students of color, are at increased risk of chronic health problems such as diabetes and asthma that can hinder learning. Ignoring these health inequities will undermine efforts to close the opportunity gap.
No school district is immune. Across the country, a rising trend in youth suicides, anxiety and depression underscores a desperate need for more behavioral and mental health services. State and local education agencies are struggling to respond to the needs of students and their families affected by opioids and the obesity epidemic. School safety is also driving policy conversations.