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Does health affect education?

Updated on February 3, 2011

Forth Grade Students in their classroom

Does health affect education?

It is undeniable- healthy students are much better able to learn, develop and achieve education outcomes to become competent and responsible citizens. Nevertheless no single element can be identified as the single cause of poor academic result. Children live in varying contexts all of which are unique to themselves. Some of them are their families, life experiences, attitudes from their communities, financial situation and even their physical environment. So, each one of these factors contributes to outline the student’s health status, ability to learn and ability to perform academic tasks.

Poor Nutrition

Eating badly has always had a disastrous effect on health on a long term basis. According to a report by the American School Health Association, Forth grade students with poor protein intake scored lower on achievement tests than their peers with adequate nutrition. Similarly those who showed a deficiency in iron were diagnosed with symptoms such as short attention span and difficulty concentrating as well as fatigue and irritability. Moreover school children who skip breakfast in the morning consistently underscore in problem-solving tests that measure for speed and accuracy. In the same way, children who have a habit of skipping meals decrease their body’s ability to fight infections and illness (a decease in immunity). This causes them to fall ill more often and to miss school. They are then left behind their peers and their education suffers a severe blow.

Over nutrition and obesity

Obesity in children is on the rise nowadays. According to the National Association of State Boards of Education of America, this epidemic reveals 16.3% of children and adolescents and some 31.9% obese and overweight. In addition children who come from families in which both parents work are more likely to eat convenience type foods that are high in fat, calories and sugar, all of which can impair a child’s ability tofunction at optimum level while in school. Part of the reason for obesity increase in children lies in sedentary lifestyles, such as watching television or playing video games for long hours rather than practicing sports and physical exercises. Moreover obese children may be teased at school, resulting in low self-esteem and depression and these children tend to miss school to avoid bullying thus experiencing a lower academic performance.

Physical Environment

We may forget to think about it as a serious factor but physical environment does affect the health of students. Mental tasks such as concentration, memory recall and calculation become compromised because of poor air quality inside the classrooms. The major factor is the high carbon dioxide levels. Poor ventilation can cause a decrease in the performances of both student and teacher alike. Also students may have allergic reactions to a variety of substances used in classrooms. Recently the effects of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide were examined on forth grade children by researchers. Unfortunately the study concluded increased school absenteeism from the exposed children. This shows that ambient air pollution causes important adverse affects that need worthy consideration.

As knowledge increases regarding the relationship between children’s health and school academic performance, creating healthy environment for learning have become top priority. Various campaigns to encourage healthy habits in students are being organized in many schools. Much importance is given to these activities so that students apply these habits to the rest of their lives.

The solution requires schools, parents, communities, state and local government to work together in preventing children from being victims of malnutrition. Schools can also provide nutritious breakfasts to children which would help to increase their attention span and improve their cognitive skills as demonstrated in a study at the Harvard School of Public Health focusing on the impact of breakfast on children’s health and learning. Schools can also add more physical education classes to their curriculum to help improve student’s overall academic performance.

Do you think that schools are really doing their job the protect the health of the fellow students?

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    • profile image

      Wayne 6 years ago

      You mention a study done on the effects of carbon dioxide on forth graders, could you give more details as to who and where this study was conducted and what levels of CO2 they were exposed to?

    • Wassiwassa profile image

      Wassiwassa 7 years ago from Mauritius

      Please add a comment and let me know your views..