Not quite. Even though the statistics are headed towards an overall dropout rate of below 5 percent, the fact remains that there are still young people dropping out of school. Along with limited job prospects and encountering social stigmas, high school dropouts also face negative health outcomes. Dropping out of school has been found to be associated with increased risk for various major chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The prospect of being affected by these and other diseases is also heightened by social obstacles like drug use, hunger, and poverty.
The situation is especially polarizing when it is clear that U.S. unemployment rates tend to be lower as education level increases. In January of 2017, this was evident as there was a 7.7% unemployment rate among people with less than a high school diploma—2.9% percentage points higher than the national average. Research on the association between education attainment and income level further shows that a higher level of education tends to result in positive outcomes like reduced mortality and better eating habits.[2,3] These are benefits that most high school dropouts are not experiencing. So, what can be done to remedy this situation?
Furthermore, the APHA has urged for an expansion of school-based health centers (SBHCs) to combat some of the main health components linked to dropout. SBHCs are hubs for health located inside of schools that usually work alongside a community health organization to provide students with primary medical care, dental/oral care, health education, and other health services. These SBHCs can play a crucial role in “facilitating partnerships among administrators, school staff, parents and key community stakeholders” with a goal of establishing a “comprehensive approach to improving the overall well-being of each student”. Some of the key services that can be provided include mental health counseling, fighting food insecurity through means of screening and referrals, and sexual and reproductive health services. As some of these services can be very expensive and inaccessible to some students at home, it is important to have the aid available through the school.
There are many factors as to why students drop out of school. These include drugs, violence, food insecurity, safety, transportation, etc. When we consider that the social determinants of health abound similar themes, it becomes evident that approaching the high school/student dropout crisis from a public health perspective not only makes sense, but is imperative.
- Vaughn, M. G., Salas-Wright, C. P., & Maynard, B. R. (2014). Dropping out of school and chronic disease in the United States. Journal of Public Health, 22(3), 265-270. doi:10.1007/s10389-014-0615-x
- Crimmins, E. M., & Saito, Y. (2001). Trends in healthy life expectancy in the United States, 1970–1990: Gender, racial, and educational differences. Social Science & Medicine, 52(11), 1629-1641. doi:10.1016/s0277-9536(00)00273-2
- Molla, M. T., Madans, J. H., & Wagener, D. K. (2004). Differentials in Adult Mortality and Activity Limitation by Years of Education in the United States at the End of the 1990s. Population and Development Review, 30(4), 625-646. doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2004.00035.x