The Dropout Crisis: A Public Health Problem and the Role of School-Based Health Care
Many, if not most of the obstacles to school completion (teen pregnancy, school violence, hunger, homelessness, unmet physical and mental health needs) are the same obstacles to vibrant health and well-being. Although the number of dropouts is decreasing, as with health disparities, the odds of dropping out of school are disproportionately stacked against African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic students. According to data released in early 2013, from the National Center for Education Statistics, the averaged freshman graduation rates (AFGR) for these groups were 66.1%, 69.1% and 71.4%, respectively, compared to 83.0% for Whites and 93.5% for Asian/Pacific Islanders. And according to others, the greatest risk may be attributable to African-American boys – half of whom will not graduate with their ninth grade class but rather become a juvenile justice statistic.
Research indicates that completing high school in four years increases the likelihood of practicing health promoting behaviors, experiencing better health, living longer, and reducing the incidence of mortality and sickness in offspring. Therefore, school dropout is not only an educational issue but also a public health one.
School-based health centers (SBHCs) provide a promising solution to the nation-wide problem of high school dropout, helping students tackle the many barriers that can not only impede their health and well-being, but also their chances for completing high school. SBHCs have the capacity to impact the social and health obstacles that derail students from educational success through programs and policies that can benefit every student in the school.
In communities where social inequities are pronounced, the potential of a SBHC to reduce health and educational disparities becomes even more powerful, given that school dropout is the number one predictor of future health, well-being and economic stability. Furthermore, given the proposition that gender plays an important role in the reasons that students drop out, SBHCs are ideally positioned to implement and coordinate gender-based interventions to reduce these effects and the effects of social and health barriers to graduation.
SBHC access can be the difference between a difficult life and a successful one, beginning with high school graduation1.
- Chapman C, Laird J, KewalRamani A. Trends in high school dropout and completion rates in the United States: 1972–2008. National Center for Education Statistics. 2010.
- Wang Y, Beydoun MA. The obesity epidemic in the United States–gender, age, socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and geographic characteristics: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29:6-28. Epub May 17, 2007. Accessed September 23, 2013.
- From Risk to Resilience: Promoting School–Health Partnerships for Children, by Jeanita W. Richardson, published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, appears by permission of the publisher. Retrieved from. http://schoolbasedhealthcare.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Risk-to-Resilience-J.-Richardson.pdf.