Supporting Health and Educational Outcomes Through School-Based Health Centers
Health and education are inextricably linked; academic achievement, cognitive development, and education are fundamental determinants of health. Similarly, poor health is often an underlying factor behind chronic absenteeism, which interrupts a child’s development in key areas, such as reading, math, and social skills, significantly increasing their risk of dropping out of school prior to receiving a high school diploma. In the United States, minority racial and ethnic groups, as well as those in lower socioeconomic groups, are at increased risk for experiencing both below average academic outcomes and worse health outcomes. Supporting school attendance and performance by preventing chronic absenteeism is an important upstream intervention to promote health in the community. Primary medical care is one area in which factors affecting absenteeism can be addressed; however, many barriers to accessing primary care services make this challenging. This article reviews health and education disparities that exist in the United States, examines the complex relationship between health and education, and discusses how school-based health centers (SBHCs) can be used to support educational outcomes as a means to improve the overall health of a community. The literature demonstrates that SBHCs are an effective tool to improve education outcomes and reduce absenteeism by promoting healthy behaviors in and out of the classroom, leading to improved school attendance, graduation rates, and overall better community health across the lifespan.