Children's Health Fund and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Release "Health Barriers to Learning" Survey of New York City School Principals and Assistant Principals

More than 60% Cite Asthma as a Barrier to Learning and 57% Cite Vision Problems

Student Mental Health Issues, Fatigue and Hunger Also Major Concerns

Oct 08, 2013, 06:00 ET from Children's Health Fund

NEW YORK, Oct. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Children's Health Fund and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) today released the results of a survey of New York City's 1,700 public school principals and assistant principals that found that poor health has a major impact on a student's ability to learn. "Crisis in the Classroom: How Untreated Medical Problems Are Seen To Interfere With School," which focused on elementary and middle school findings, also compared the responses from principals and assistant principals in high poverty schools with lower poverty schools and found substantial disparities in the presence and classroom impact of unmet student health needs.

"As America struggles to improve the academic performance of our children, we need to focus on the reality that an alarming number of children are walking into their schools each day with significant health barriers to learning. What we learned about New York City from this study is a barometer for kids in poverty across the country," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and co-founder of Children's Health Fund and director of the Child Well-Being and Resilience Program at Columbia University's Earth Institute. "Many of these health problems are readily preventable, treatable, or manageable, and we must do a better job of ensuring that all kids are healthy and ready to learn."

Among the medical conditions cited by school principals and assistant principals, 63% said that asthma was a barrier to learning for students in their school, 57% cited vision problems, 28% cited hearing and 17% cited dental pain.  Mental health issues were also identified as significant problems by school leaders, with learning disabilities (87%), disruptive behaviors (86%) and depression (63%) cited as predominant concerns.

"When I was a middle school principal in an economically disadvantaged district, we were forced to call an ambulance at least weekly because a child had an uncontrollable asthma attack," said Ernest Logan, president of CSA.  "In many of our schools, we continue to see how undiagnosed and untreated health problems, particularly asthma, affect students and learning in dramatic ways. We all have an obligation to work on solutions for problems such as asthma in the classroom and collaborate to obtain additional health care resources and promote better family education."

The results are even more staggering when broken down by income disparity.  Administrators of higher poverty schools (schools with at least 70% of students on a free or reduced price lunch program) reported significantly higher prevalence of health barriers to learning compared to administrators from schools where fewer than 70% of students were eligible for lunch programs.  Principals and assistant principals from higher poverty schools cited student fatigue (62%), hunger (59%) and student problems accessing health care (50%) at high rates. 

The survey looked at a wide-range of other categories including food allergies, substance abuse, fitness and nutrition.

When asked what resources their schools needed to address these health barriers to learning, 67% of principles from higher poverty schools answered they needed links with organizations that can provide health services at school, 66% wanted resources to promote family involvement, and 65% said they needed mental health services at the school, among other requests.

The complete survey, "Crisis in the Classroom: How Untreated Medical Problems Are Seen to Interfere With School Performance" is available at

Children's Health Fund

Founded in 1987 by singer/songwriter Paul Simon and pediatrician/advocate Irwin Redlener, M.D., Children's Health Fund is the nation's leading pediatric provider of mobile-based health care for homeless and low-income children and their families. Its mission is to bring health care directly to those in need through the development and support of innovative medical programs, response to public health crises, and the promotion of guaranteed access to health care for all children. Children's Health Fund currently has 50 mobile clinics serving hundreds of locations in 17 states and the District of Columbia.  Over the past 25 years, the organization has treated over 350,000 disadvantaged children providing almost three million health care visits, often in places where doctors and health care providers are in short supply. For more information about CHF, visit


Founded in 1962, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1: AFSA, AFL-CIO, represents approximately 6,300 New York City public school principals, assistant principals, supervisors and education administrators as well as city funded directors and assistant directors of Early Childhood Education, and more than 10,000 retirees.  For more information about CSA, visit

SOURCE Children's Health Fund