Date of Award
Master of Public Health (MPH)
School of Public Health
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.
Maver, Sarah Jane, "Health For Achievement: Greater Health Assets Associated With Better Standards-Based Assessment Scores Among Eighth Grade Students" (2016). Public Health Theses. 1190.