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Wash U., SLU Study Finds Physical, Mental Health Play 'Surprising' Role In High School Dropout Rates

(via Flickr/NWABR)

A multi-disciplinary study released today finds that in relation to school dropout rates, health plays a bigger role than one might think.

The study is part of ‘For The Sake of All,’ a five part series from Washington University and Saint Louis University that focuses on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis region.

The brief, authored by Washington University scholar Dr. William F. Tate,  found that childhood illness and mental health issues can have a strong effect on overall school performance, which, he says, can catch the general public by surprise.

“They usually attribute it to something that is very different when they hear about people dropping out – usually behavior problems,” he says. “We believe that schools should have a way of giving access and referral to primary health care, nutrition services need to be integrated; there’s a desperate need for counseling and psychological and social services to be embedded.”

In 2012, it was reported that of the 21,000 African American students enrolled in St. Louis City and County schools, nearly 10 percent dropped out. The study found that school performance can also lead to students experimenting with risky behavior.

Tate says that correcting these issues now can reap academic benefits for students and save money for schools.

“In St. Louis City and County with 2,000 kids, for example, in just one year dropping out in those two county areas in 2012 alone, if you can just facilitate just 1,000 of those kids graduating, that’s worth millions of dollars in our economy,” he says.

The next brief in the series, to be released later this year, will focus on mental health among the African American community.

Follow Erin Williams on Twitter: @STLPR_Erin