Note: Dr. Jones has also worked as a professor in the Schools of Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia and UMKC.
With all the talk about the historic bill to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, signed into law by President Obama last year, nowhere is this talk more important when considering the health of our nation’s children and the status of our education system. This is particularly the case for children who happen to come from families in poverty.
Numerous studies connect poor health to poor learning. According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, children who are born into circumstances that do not allow them to be children (i.e., children taking care of adults and younger siblings; children having children – teen pregnancy) are at great risk of suffering from depression and anxiety that renders them incapable of learning in formal school settings. Children born into poverty are at great risk of suffering from malnutrition, eating disorders and obesity as well as poor vision and hearing and chronic hearing problems. Each of these conditions potentially impairs learning.
Successful intervention health models tend to adopt community-wide approaches toward solutions to child health concerns. Authentic community-wide approaches require individual and institutional collective responsibility for these solutions. In this respect, schools, neighborhood constituents, families, nonprofit service providers and representatives of higher education, business and the philanthropic sectors work together to develop and implement strategies with short and long term health care goals and benchmarks. Such efforts are strong on public transparency and accountability.
A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation paints a grim picture of the socioeconomic status of our nation’s children. According to the report, over 30 million children reside in low income households that fall below the federal poverty line and the number of children in poverty continues to grow each year.
Clearly there is too much at stake to adopt win-lose strategies and mindsets to the health status of our children. From a sociopolitical and economic standpoint, this would be devastating to the well-being of our nation. Only longstanding collective individual and institutional approaches to solving the problems that concern the well-being of our children will work—this is what win-win scenarios are all about.