Health Determinants

 

We know that learning begins at birth and that healthy development greatly impacts children’s ability to learn. Children who are on track in their physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and verbal development are more successful learners from their earliest years, and they are more likely to become proficient readers. In Florida, affordable health and dental insurance is available for children ages 5–18 through Florida Healthy Kids. For children under the age of 5, there’s the Florida Kidcare program, Medikids.

Health matters to school success — children who don’t feel well or who have not reached a critical developmental milestone might not perform as well as other kids in the classroom. Children who can’t see well enough to make out words or can’t hear well enough to understand what the teacher is saying or can’t concentrate because they are distracted by hunger pains or tooth pain have a hard time learning in school. These conditions can disrupt learning for that student and teaching, which impact the entire class.

The Healthy Readers Initiative of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on strategies to ensure that children from low-income families are in good health and developing on track at four key milestones in their development from birth through third grade:

  • Born Healthy
  • Thriving at Three
  • Ready at Five
  • Present and Engaged in the Early Grades

At every age and stage of development, children from low-income families often receive less and lower-quality health care and services. As a result, they experience poor health at higher rates than children from higher income families. For example, they have:

  • higher rates of developmental delays and disabilities related to learning, which affect their school readiness;
  • higher rates of asthma that affect their school attendance; and
  • fewer opportunities for high-quality nutrition especially during the summer months.

Since poor nutrition affects learning, such missed opportunities can contribute to summer learning loss.

These health disparities — differences in health that favor children from more advantaged families — are reflected in lower levels of reading proficiency for children from low-income families.

As the nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading moves forward in their momentum and towards bigger outcomes, there will be an increased focus on the health determinants for early school success.