About half of states do not require students to have a comprehensive health exam, according to a new study.
Authors from the Children’s Health Fund say students are missing out on crucial opportunities to have issues they’ve dubbed health barriers to learning (HBL) identified and treated.
“Left untreated or undermanaged, Health Barriers to Learning can adversely affect children’s ability to see, hear and pay attention in the classroom, their ability and motivation to learn, their attendance, their academic performance, and even their chances of graduating from high school,” authors wrote in the report Missed Opportunities.
The nonprofit Children’s Health Fund works to bring health care to underserved children. Last year, it identified seven health barriers to learning that are fairly common, easy to screen for and manageable. They include untreated asthma, vision problems, hearing loss, dental problems, persistent hunger, mental health/behavioral problems, and effects of lead exposure.
The new report builds on that premise as well as the group’s recent study looking at states’ screening requirements for students.
Researchers found 24 states and Washington, D.C., require a comprehensive health exam, though only Washington, D.C., does so annually.
About 82% of states require vision screenings, 75% require hearing screenings, and 22% require dental screenings, according to the report. None require screening for all seven health barriers to learning.
The Children’s Health Fund created a 20-point scoring system to rate states’ screening requirements. Only Washington, D.C., earned an A with a score of 18. Eight states received an F — Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Another 21 received a D. States with scores of D or F are home to more than 41 million children.
The authors recommend that states mandate comprehensive health screening annually for students and that they use state-level forms to help ensure adequate and consistent screening. The group also called for systems to help children access screenings and subsequent care so health issues can be managed properly.
“Failing to require annual screenings for HBLs at the school level is an unleveraged opportunity for a majority of U.S. States,” authors wrote. “Integration of health screenings must become a priority for governors, state legislators and state-level education officials throughout America.”