Healthier Students are Better Learners

Charles E. Basch presents an interesting concept in his article that addresses how particular health problems play a major role in poor academic achievement in urban minority youth especially in their motivation and ability to learn.  A coordinated approach of health services with the school and community has been found to close the achievement gap and increase learning.  It has been shown that the environment in which youth live, educational attainment, and health are all related and factor into one’s learning with poverty also being a major influence on learning too.  In order for urban minorities to improve their learning, there is no simple solution; coordinated school health programs need to be implemented effectively and widely.

However, there are often fewer and lower quality resources available in schools that serve low-income minority students.  School health services need to be a fundamental part of the school’s mission because if students are not healthy they will not learn.  The article asserts that efforts need to be made to address multiple health problems especially vision, asthma, teen pregnancy, aggression and violence, physical activity, breakfast, inattention and hyperactivity especially among minority students.  Moreover, students need to feel that peers, faculty and administration care about them and are engaged in the learning process.  Many students are struggling to learn, so factors that are affecting their learning need addressed with extensive involvement from social institutions, the community and the school in a coordinated way.

I firmly agree with this article in that urban minority youth are “disproportionately affected by both educational and health disparities”. It has been proven that healthier students are better learners, so I think that as a future health and physical education teacher I need to make sure that I implement a coordinated, cohesive, and comprehensive approach involving health programs into my school and community. I need to be a strong advocate for resources, funding and involving families and the community in the school environment.  I believe that healthier students will help increase learning, help students obtain employment, have a better orientation for their future, and decrease absenteeism, dropping out, and poor conceptions of self.  It is my goal and mission to achieve this.  Because urban minority youth and others are a big proponent of the future, teachers need to step up and act now to close the achievement gap.

“Now is an opportune time for change”, the author states, and I firmly believe the same.  Improving one’s health and decreasing health disparities will definitely contribute to students being more motivated in school and willing to learn.  In my opinion, we need to work on closing the achievement gap with minority youth so that they can be improved learners, students, and eventually citizens.

My future role as a health educator is imperative. There are increasing cuts and furloughs in education. We need to advocate for programs, grants and funding that will help students achieve better health such as walking trails, linkages with community doctors, agencies, and counseling and a healthy school environment. If students are not healthy, they cannot learn. I also need to motivate my students to attend school and to take care of their bodies in a healthy, positive way. I can do this by teaching them strategies, knowledge and skills to achieve this. I can also be a positive role model.

As a teacher, I would implement the following into my classes and school: more physical activity, behavior modification, healthier nutrition and motivation to come to school. I would have all teachers in my school start a wellness program because teachers are role models for students. This would include exercising, healthier nutrition and proper hygiene. Chronic diseases, poverty and disparities in health are common; it is my role to advocate for services and programs to decrease these. Moreover, as an educator, I can get my students’ parents involved in their students’ lives by encouraging proper nutrition at home, exercising more and decreasing screen time for both them and their children. I can host family fun nights at school to inform parents and students about these simple alterations.  Overall, it is vital that I step up for my students’ health so that they are able learn!

What are you doing to help? What can you be doing more of to help?


Authored by: Katherine Sick


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