Poor Attendance Linked to Chronic Health Issues

Attendance gaps lead to achievement gaps.Attendance Works and Healthy Schools Campaign released a report (September 2015), Mapping the Early Attendance Gap: Charting a Course for School Success, highlighting how health conditions can be an underlying cause of absenteeism and poor school attendance.

While all schools in California report on average daily attendance, chronic absence (missing 10% or more of the school year) and poor attendance are associated with significant achievement gaps and poor educational outcomes.

The report also attributed high rates of absenteeism to chronic health issues, including asthma, dental health, and mental health issues related to trauma.

  • Asthma. Nearly one in 10 children (9.9 percent) ages 4 to 14 are diagnosed with asthma. Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, accounting for about 14 million absences each school year, or one-third of all days of missed instruction. Children with persistent asthma are more than three times as likely to have 10 or more absences than their peers.1
  • Oral health. A full 20 percent of children ages 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth.2 Among school-age children, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease, five times more prevalent than asthma. Children between 5 and 17 years miss nearly 2 million school days each year nationwide due to dental health problems.3

A Solution: School-Based Health Centers

School-based health centers (SBHCs) can be key community partners with local schools to better understand the underlying causes of chronic absence and offer solutions to mitigate the health issues that lead to poor attendance.

For example, SBHCs can provide on-site services to help prevent or manage existing chronic health conditions so that they do not impact school attendance. Also, school-based health providers can be trusted spokespeople at the importance of school attendance and can educate parents during health check-ups.

1. National Health Interview Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/most_ recent_data.htm
2. Dye BA, Xianfen L, Beltrán-Aguilar ED. Selected Oral Health Indicators in the United States 2005–2008. NCHS Data Brief, no. 96. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2012.
3. Pourat Nadereh, and Gina Nicholson. Unaffordable Dental Care is Linked to Frequent School Absences. UCLA Health Policy Research Brief. November 2009:1–6.