Preventing School Dropout

The Dropout Crisis: A Public Health Problem and the Role of School-Based Health Care

smiling boy in cap and gown

Research indicates that completing high school in four years increases the likelihood of practicing health promoting behaviors, experiencing better health, living longer, and reducing the incidence of mortality and sickness in offspring. School dropout is not only an educational issue but also a public health one.

Many, if not most, of the barriers to high school graduation (teen pregnancy, school violence, hunger, homelessness, unmet physical and mental health needs) are the same barriers to vibrant health and well-being. Although the number of dropouts is decreasing, as is the case with health disparities, the odds of dropping out of school are disproportionately stacked against Hispanic, African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native students. According to National Center for Education Statistics data from the 2014-2015 school year, the averaged cohort graduation rates, or ACGR, for these groups were 77.8 percent, 74.6 percent and 71.6 percent, respectively, compared to 87.6 percent for White and 90.2 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander students.

School-based health centers provide a promising solution to the nationwide problem of high school dropout, helping students tackle the many barriers that not only impede their health and well-being, but also their chances for completing high school. School-based health centers have the potential to impact the social and health barriers that derail students from educational success through programs and policies that can benefit every student in the school. School-based health center access can be the difference between a difficult life and a successful one, beginning with high school graduation.

The graduation rate for African-American males, at 59 percent, lags substantially behind the U.S. average of 83 percent. This group makes up a disproportionate number of the students who do not finish high school.