Digging Deeper: Physical Health Impacts Education, Too

September 26th, 2017

Category: Digging Deeper


In Delaware, and across the nation, schools are providing a deeper focus on both social and emotional learning and physical health. Next month, community members, educators, and policymakers from across the state will converge at the University of Delaware to talk about the intersection of health and education at the 10th Annual Vision Coalition Conference.


We often hear about the correlation between higher levels of education and higher salaries and lower unemployment rates. And we know that a person with a higher level of education is more likely to move up the socio-economic ladder, be an active citizen, have a better understanding of political issues, and more likely to vote in elections. However, we don’t often hear about the relationship between educational attainment and health—despite the fact that a positive relationship exists.


Students with high levels of education are also more likely to enjoy healthier lifestyles—reducing health care costs over time as they exercise more, smoke less, and experience lower rates of obesity. So how are Delaware youth doing when it comes to physical health?


A survey of Delawareans ages found that overall, children and youth are exceeding the Center for Disease Control’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Still, as students get older, they typically spend less time exercising. The Center of Disease Control reported physically active students tend to perform better academically, have better memory, and exhibit on-task behavior—all traits necessary for academic success.


In fact, the CDC suggests a complimentary relationship between health and education—that is, the healthier your lifestyle, the better your academic performance (and social and emotional skills) and the higher your educational attainment/academic performance, the greater the likelihood you live a healthy lifestyle.


Of course, physical health alone will not win high academic marks on its own. Access to quality, comprehensive, and coordinated family-centered care is attributed to higher in-school performance and a lower likelihood of risky behavior.


On average, just six out of 10 of all Delaware children have access to adequate medical care. However, there are still major disparities between children of color and their white peers. For example, more than 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children in Delaware do not have access to the adequate medical care.


As this field continues to expand, it is important to note that developing the “whole child” is not a new idea. In recent years, there has been a renewed focus on providing students with social and emotional learning, physical and mental health development, nutrition, and exposure to the arts. The incorporation of social and emotional skills—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity—along with strong academic components has generated positive outcomes for children in Delaware and beyond. (For more information on Rodel’s engagement in the area of social and emotional learning, visit our website here.)


Despite the gains in both areas of health and education, Delaware still has a lot of work to do in setting up our young people for successful lives after graduation.


Want to get involved? Here are some local groups leading the charge.


  • Delaware Readiness Teams are working in communities throughout the state to ensure kids are healthy and ready to hit the ground running in kindergarten by advocating and promoting developmental screenings, referral, and follow-up services; making sure families receive information on children’s health and developmental milestones; and, promoting alongside families’ activities that education on health and wellness.


Want to learn more? Visit our blog for more developments or our posts on the whole child approach, our latest screening of “Resilience,” and more.

Jeremy Hidalgo