Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Jeannette Ickovics


Purpose: Improving adolescent health and educational attainment remain national priorities. However, major gaps remain in coordination of these efforts. Study objectives were to: (1) document associations between health assets and academic achievement, (2) examine cumulative effects of health assets on academic achievement, and (3) identify health assets most strongly associated with academic achievement.

Methods: Participants include 8th grade students attending 12 randomly selected schools (N=517, 75% of all eligible students). Data include physical measurements, student surveys, and school records, including standards-based assessment scores in literacy and mathematics. We assessed 20 health indicators covering three related domains of health as proposed by the Institute of Medicine: health conditions, functioning, and health potential. Health assets were measured in the Fall of 2014, preceding standardized testing which was conducted in the Spring of 2015.

Results: Students averaged 12 out of 20 possible health assets. Having more health assets was associated with greater likelihood of achieving goal on literacy and mathematics assessments (p <0.01 for both). Students with the most health assets had more than twice the likelihood of achieving goal on both assessments compared to students with the fewest (p <.05). Health assets most strongly associated with achieving goal on both assessments were having no chronic disease, having few conduct problems, and infrequently consuming unhealthy foods, fast-food meals, or sugar-sweetened beverages.

Conclusions: Health assets are associated with academic achievement among middle school students. Overall diet quality appears to be a prime candidate for intervention. Promoting health equity may contribute to closing the achievement gap.

Implications and Contribution: To date, limited research has examined the association between multiple health risk/protective factors and academic achievement. We found middle school students with more health assets are significantly more likely to achieve goal on standards-based literacy and mathematics assessments. Health promoting interventions may improve both health and academic outcomes.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 06/07/2018