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Health and Academic Achievement: Cumulative Effects of Health Assets on Standardized Test Scores Among Urban Youth in the United States

Authors


  • Funding for this study came from grants from the Donaghue Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD070740).
  • Indicates CHES continuing education hours are available. Also available at http://www.ashaweb.org/continuing_education.html

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND

The Institute of Medicine (2012) concluded that we must “strengthen schools as the heart of health.” To intervene for better outcomes in both health and academic achievement, identifying factors that impact children is essential. Study objectives are to (1) document associations between health assets and academic achievement, and (2) examine cumulative effects of these assets on academic achievement.

METHODS

Participants include 940 students (grades 5 and 6) from 12 schools randomly selected from an urban district. Data include physical assessments, fitness testing, surveys, and district records. Fourteen health indicators were gathered including physical health (eg, body mass index [BMI]), health behaviors (eg, meeting recommendations for fruit/vegetable consumption), family environment (eg, family meals), and psychological well-being (eg, sleep quality). Data were collected 3-6 months prior to standardized testing.

RESULTS

On average, students reported 7.1 health assets out of 14. Those with more health assets were more likely to be at goal for standardized tests (reading/writing/mathematics), and students with the most health assets were 2.2 times more likely to achieve goal compared with students with the fewest health assets (both p < .001).

CONCLUSIONS

Schools that utilize nontraditional instructional strategies to improve student health may also improve academic achievement, closing equity gaps in both health and academic achievement.

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