Report Links Poor School Attendance to Chronic Health Issues
Details of Report
The report, which tracked the effects of absenteeism, was authored by not-for-profits:
- Attendance Works; and
- Healthy Schools Campaign.
The report attributed the high rates of absenteeism to chronic health issues, among other reasons (Fernandes, "KPCC News," KPCC, 8/31). Such conditions include:
- Dental health;
- Disabilities; and
- Mental health issues related to trauma.
Dental Health Findings
According to the report, tooth decay is the most common chronic condition among school-aged children.
The report found that 20% of students ages five to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Such issues account for nearly two million annual missed school days nationwide among kids ages five to 17.
The report highlighted a teledentistry program in California as a way to provide cost-effective care to such kids.
Meanwhile, the report identified asthma as another leading cause of missing school.
According to the report, 9.9% of children ages four to 14 are diagnosed with asthma. However, asthma rates can vary widely within states.
In California, the overall rate of childhood asthma in is 15.4%. However, rates range from:
- 5.8% in San Benito County; to
- 32.5% in Merced County.
According to the report, asthma accounts for about 14 million absences nationwide every school year (Attendance Works/Healthy Schools Campaign report, September 2015).
Rochelle Davis, president of Healthy Schools Campaign, said that while asthma affects all races, there are racial and economic disparities in terms of students' ability to manage their conditions.
Davis noted that "if a child does have asthma, they need to have regular access to medical care [and] they need to have a school that is well set up to have an asthma management plan." She added that many "low-income kids of color live in homes that have a lot more asthma triggers" ("KPCC News," KPCC, 8/31).
The report made several recommendations to improve attendance rates, including:
- Demonstrating that chronic early school absence matters;
- Mapping chronic absence among school children;
- Collaborating with partners to determine the causes of early absences;
- Learning from positive outliers; and
- Incorporating corrective action into existing initiatives (Attendance Works/Health Schools Campaign report, September 2015).