Ways to Help Students with Health Issues in School

5 ways to help students with health issues when they are at school

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student health issues

School is one such setting where stakeholders come to learn, work, and play. Students spend most of their time in school rather than at home, and academic achievement is the primary goal. However, the health and well-being of students should also be a priority, as academic achievement and the health status of students are strongly correlated. The healthier the students are, the better their performance will be. Therefore, any health issues of students should be immediately addressed at school.

Let us consider the various health issues of students before elaborating on how to address these issues in school.</span

Health issues of students in school can be broadly classified into:

1. Physical health issues – Eg:  asthma, obesity, poor nutrition, headache, cold, fever, injuries, sprains, fractures, lack of physical activity, and poor oral health

2. Emotional and mental health issues – Eg: depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, eating and sleeping disorders, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

3. Social health issues – Eg: difficulty in communication, relationship building, creating own support system, participating in community and cultural activities

Identification of student health issues at school

Identification of student health issues at school is crucial to maintaining a healthy school. Students with health issues need to be identified and addressed at the right moment. Frequent health checkups and teachers’ observation and identification of changes in students’ physical, emotional, mental, or social behaviours are necessary. To be more organized, schools can create or use some self-assess school health tools. These assessments help identify strengths and weaknesses and create effective action plans for improving student health. The following tools can be used as reference:

School Health Index (SHI)

Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT)

Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT)

Wellness Policy in Action Tool (WPAT)

Also Read: 5 Mental Health Tips For School Leaders

WSCC framework

CTA

Schools play an important role in addressing health issues, promoting health and safety of students, and establishing lifelong healthy behaviours. 

The WSCC framework can be used to address health issues in schools. This framework consists of  10 components and is student-centered, focusing on the role of the community in supporting the school, the connections between health and academic achievement, and the importance of evidence-based school policies and practices.

WSCC framework
Source: WSCC model

5 ways to help students with health issues when they are at school

1. Supportive health services

This method provides on-the-field help that should be made available to students whenever they have health issues, whether physical, mental, or social. Full-time school nurses, student counselors, and first aid services are highly recommended. Experienced nurses can handle physical injuries and various health illnesses, while expert counselors can manage emotional, mental, and social issues.

2. Integrated school-based interventions

Schools cannot and should not be expected to, solve all the health and social problems that young people face. Families, healthcare workers, media, religious organizations, community organizations that serve youth, and young people themselves must also be systematically involved. However, schools can provide a critical facility in which many agencies might work together to maintain the well-being of young people.

3. Health-promoting curriculum, instruction, and training

Integrating school curricula and books with good health-related information is the best way to develop healthy habits and routines in students. Conceptually based wellness courses such as physical education, first aid, mental health, and physical fitness provide skill-based as well as self-management skills that have real-world application for students.

4. Information-based solutions

Prevention is better than cure, which is why information-based solutions are necessary to disseminate health awareness knowledge and tips to students. School principals, teachers, guest speakers, health experts, and counselors can utilize posters, websites, and social media to have a positive impact on students’ well-being.

5. Health-promoting school policies, procedures, and environments

Imparting health education to students and creating awareness about the importance of health (physical, emotional, mental, and social) is one way of supporting students with health issues. Traditional classroom-based or individual-based health education can be given, and classroom or individual routines, procedures, and activities can be designed and implemented to create a safe and healthy environment in school.

What schools can do?

  • All members of the school community should be allowed to participate in school decision-making activities, such as opinion surveys, electing class representatives, student parliaments, focus groups, in-class feedback on learning classroom activities, and an element of student’s voice in teaching and learning methods. 
  • A conducive environment at school can be created to make students feel supported and safe by providing access to meaningful activities, such as student clubs and interest groups that can handle students’ health issues. 
  • The anxiety that students experience about examinations and assessments can be reduced by introducing less stressful forms of tests or assessments according to the learning levels of students. 
  • Teaching methods that create a positive classroom environment and well-being, such as cooperative learning, student-centered methods, self-organized time, and outdoor activities, can be adopted.
  • Topics related to healthy eating, physical fitness, mental health, bullying, positive relationships, etc., can be discussed to create health awareness. 
  • Education for intercultural and democratic understanding can be integrated into different school subjects and extracurricular activities, such as human rights in social science and empathy in literature. 
  • Conflict management and solutions to bullying and harassment can be student-led approaches. 
  •  The physical environment of the school can be improved to make it more student-friendly, by introducing new furniture, carpeted areas, appropriate color schemes, safe toilet areas, and recreational areas. 
  • Healthier eating habits can be inculcated by providing healthy options in the school canteen, such as avoiding high amounts of sugar, saturated fats, and salt. 
  • Schools can collaborate with parents to enhance students’ achievement and sense of purpose in school.

Any kind of student health issue cannot be ignored at school. Continuous observation, monitoring, and recording of student health, and attending to it at the right time with the proper method is a school’s responsibility. Good health is just not the absence of physical illness but it is also relevant to mental, emotional, and social health.

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