Day #2 - National Public Health Week

By Leslie Terjesen on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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Why should I care?

When asked for one thing that his community should do to improve the health of its residents, Dr. 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.

Dropout rates in the U.S. are decreasing. Still, about 6,000 students are pushed out, pulled out or just give up on school every day.3 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. 

Many of the reasons teens don’t graduate high school are directly related to public health. That’s why APHA supports the kind of school-based health centers (SBHCs) that help students stay physically and mentally healthy throughout their teenage years so they can stay in school, graduate and grow into healthier adults. Consider just this small handful of results: 4

  • Students who receive mental health services at SBHCs have 50 percent fewer missed days of school. 
  • Black boys enrolled in SBHCs are three times more likely to stay in school.