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School Health

Nurturing Student Well-being for School District Success

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We often think of student health and student achievement as two separate issues, but they’re inextricably linked.
When delving into the intricate web of factors influencing education, it’s imperative to recognize the symbiotic relationship between student health and academic achievement. This blog explores the profound connection between the two, unraveling the multifaceted impact of student health across a school district and emphasizing the pivotal role of school nurses in navigating this complex terrain.
Student health has far-reaching impacts across the school district. But there are so many factors in student health, and so many nuances in how student health influences their academic achievement. We can’t oversimplify the relationship between a student, their health, and their district.
When looking at the relationship between student health and academic achievement, it is important to consider all aspects of a student’s circumstances. For example, students with chronic physical or mental health issues may have trouble focusing on schoolwork. Or they might have a hard time participating in extracurricular activities. Others may experience poverty, language barriers, or lack of access to quality healthcare services that could also affect their ability achieve in school.

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Many school nurses work in districts simply because they care about student health. But beyond the benefit of student health, states have begun to acknowledge the role of student health in meeting state-wide achievement goals.

“New research shows that the health and well-being of California’s students have a direct impact on dropout rates, attendance, academic performance, and school revenues. The stakes are high and current health indicators raise serious concerns. Student health is critical to our ability to reach achievement goals set by the state—and to advance California’s economic and cultural prosperity. We need to couple commitment to education reform with strategic investments in the well-being of our young people, because we need healthy students to close the achievement gap.”

The benefits of investing in student health extend beyond the individual level; there are also beneficial outcomes at the district-level. School districts that prioritize student health and well-being will witness improved attendance rates, better test scores, and higher graduation rates. Furthermore, studies have shown that a healthier student body yields greater school revenues due to lower healthcare costs and higher academic achievement.

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By investing in purpose-built tools for school nurses, districts can help make sure that students receive the care they need in a timely manner. This is especially important for those who are at risk of or have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). With access to these resources, nurses can assess student needs more quickly and offer appropriate interventions to help address any issues that may arise. In some cases, this could even mean catching potential problems before they become more serious and costly to remedy down the line.

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Districts should also recognize the importance of providing mental health services alongside physical health services to optimize academic performance. Positive mental health has been linked to improved problem-solving skills, creativity, motivation levels, communication abilities, and overall academic success. These are traits that contribute to closing achievement gaps across all demographics.

School & Home Environments

In addition, there are various environmental factors that could ultimately influence a student’s academic outcomes. This includes things like the quality of education offered by the district they attend or the availability of after-school programs designed to help them excel academically. All these elements interact with each other and can affect how well a student performs in school.
All of this is to say, student health is complicated. And that means that school nurses’ jobs are complicated, too.
If we expect school nurses to take on increasingly complicated workloads, we need to make sure they have the tools they need. School and home environments impact students’ health and academic experiences. Students with poor housing conditions are more likely to be chronically absent. Air quality, classroom heating/air-conditioning, and even law enforcement presence on campus are just a few examples of school environment factors that impact student health.
Physical effects are often the most visible when it comes to student health, but not all ailments are visible. Chronic illnesses such as asthma or allergies require consistent management for students to succeed academically while also maintaining their health. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can also present themselves with physical symptoms, making them just as serious as any other illness or disability.
Students who live in poor housing conditions can struggle even if their school environment is a healthy one. Transportation difficulties or living situations that prevent them from getting enough rest each night. That can have a very real impact on both their physical and mental states, leading to poorer academic performance overall.
There is so much that the school nurse can’t change. But school nurses are often expected to meet students where they are and help them in some capacity.

Other Students’ Impact

Everyone in a school community plays a part in creating a school culture. While physical spaces make a difference in setting the tone for culture, nothing is as powerful as the people who enter those spaces everyday. So when one student’s physical or mental health suffers, they’re likely impacting the students around them, too.

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Schools should focus on developing learning programs that promote life skills like self-awareness, empathy, problem-solving skills, communication abilities, and collaboration. Lessons like these help students learn how to handle stressors more effectively while teaching them important lessons about personal responsibility and accountability. In addition, this kind of learning provides students with valuable tools they can use throughout their lives to handle difficult situations.

In Conclusion

Student health is anything but simple. But as student health has evolved, their tools haven’t always done the same. In the evolution of student health, the tools and strategies must evolve in tandem. Nurturing student well-being isn’t just about addressing health concerns; it’s an investment in the educational fabric of a district, contributing to a future where every student can thrive academically and personally.