Improved Learning through better Health, Nutrition and Education for the School-Age Child.
Good health is essential for learning and cognitive ability. Ensuring good health when children are of school age can boost attendance and educational achievement. In sub-Saharan Africa research has shown that more than half of schoolchildren are stunted in height and are anaemic, in many areas most schoolchildren are infected with worms and malaria. These conditions are associated with impaired cognitive ability.
Healthy children learn better. SHN interventions have been shown to improve not only children’s health and nutrition, but also their learning potential and life choices both in the short and long-term.
Over the past few decades, the success of child survival programmes and the expansion of education coverage has resulted in a greater number of children reaching school-age and a higher number of these children attending a primary school. However, disease and malnutrition is still a major burden among this age group. Children who begin school with the worst health status, have the most to gain from health and nutrition programmes. They also have the most to gain educationally, since they show the greatest improvement in cognition as a result of health intervention. These school health programmes particularly benefit the poor and disadvantaged and these children are increasingly accesible through schools as a result of universal education strategies.
School-based health programmes can be amongst the most cost-effective of public health interventions; promoting learning, and simultaneously reducing absenteeism, they can also be used as leverage for existing investments in schools and teachers.
It is now widely recognised that SHN programmes are an important instrument in enabling children to attend school. As such, they are recognized as making a significant contribution towards countries’ efforts to achieve
Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals.
Why use the school based platform for health interventions? Global and national initiatives to achieve universal access to basic education meaning that more children now have the opportunity to go to school and can be reached through the school system than ever before. School health programmes can help ensure that children are healthy and able to take advantage of what is often their first and only opportunity for formal education.