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Teachers College, Columbia University
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TC's Basch Meets with U.S. Education Secretary to Outline Health Strategies

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Charles Basch

Charles Basch

Charles Basch, TC’s Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education, was one of four experts who met recently with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss the connection between health disparities and the minority achievement gap and propose ways that schools can promote student health and wellness.

Together with Terry Mazaney, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust; Rochelle Davis, of the Healthy Schools Campaign; and Gail Christopher, Vice President for Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Basch called on the U.S. Department of Education to take four specific steps:
  • appoint a Senior Advisor on Health and Environment Initiatives to Secretary Duncan;
  • incorporate school wellness into professional development programs for teachers and principals;
  • support initiatives that increase funding for school nurses and promote alternative funding models for school nurses, such as third-party billing, and community partnerships;
  • and modify the evaluation criteria for the federal Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which honors public and private schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels, to emphasize the important connection between health and learning.
“It was a productive meeting, and Secretary Duncan was generally receptive to our ideas,” said Basch, who has previously visited the White House as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to prevent childhood obesity.

For the past three years, in work originally conducted for TC’s Campaign for Educational Equity, Basch has devoted much of his time to documenting the extent of what he terms “educationally relevant health disparities.” Among his findings, drawn from a wealth of previous research: 
  • Visual problems affect more than 20 percent of 
American youth;
  • Asthma affects more than 14 percent of youth under 18;
  • One in three teens is expected to become pregnant; 
  • Twenty-eight percent of adolescents have been bullied 
at school;
  • Two in three students don’t get enough physical activity;
  • 20 percent of youth skip breakfast on any given day;.
  • About 8 percent of youth ages 6–17 have been diagnosed with hyperactivity.  

Many of these issues are significantly worse for urban minority youth. Basch has found that:
  • Black children are significantly more likely to suffer from asthma, and certain populations within Latinos—most notably Puerto Ricans—are as well. Urban minority youth also have higher rates of poorly controlled asthma, as indicated by over-use of the emergency room and under-use of efficacious medicines;
  • Non-Hispanic black teens have pregnancy rates three times as high as whites, and rates for Hispanic teens are four times as high as for whites;
  • Nearly 10 percent of Hispanic youths missed one or more days of school in the past month because they were afraid—a figure more than twice as high as for whites. Rates for blacks were more than 50 percent higher than for whites.
Basch’s research on educationally relevant health disparities will soon be published in a series of 10 separate articles in the Journal of School Health.

The meeting with Duncan grew out of a recent conference organized by Davis and the Healthy Schools Campaign in Chicago. The strategies called for by the group have since been endorsed by the Healthy Schools Campaign, the American Association of School Administrators,  the American Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Education Association – Health Information Network, and the Public Education Network.


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