Twenty-nine American states fail to require adequate health screenings for children entering school, according to a ground-breaking report authored by Children’s Health Fund. The report, entitled “Missed Opportunities,” examined school health screening laws in all 50 states (plus Washington D.C.) for 7 specific health conditions found to significantly impede a child’s ability to learn in school. The 7 conditions—known as Health Barriers to Learning (HBLs)—are vision problems, hearing difficulties, asthma, dental pain, hunger, lead exposure, and behavioral/ mental health issues.
Children’s Health Fund researchers assigned a letter grade to each state (plus Washington D.C.) based on the requirements and frequency of screenings written into State law for the 7 HBLs. Almost 60% of States earned either a “D” or an “F.” More than 41 million children live in these states.
For the states that earned “F’s” researchers were unable to find any HBL screening requirements upon school entry for vision, hearing, or dental pain. In the state of South Carolina, for example, researchers could not identify any requirements for students to receive basic screenings for these conditions even once throughout their K-12 academic careers.
Other low performing states required limited or infrequent HBL screenings upon school entry. For instance, the state of Utah only requires vision screening once in a student’s K-12 academic career, and does not require screening for any of the other HBLs, as far as researchers could identify.
Only Washington DC earned an “A,” as it requires annual screenings for 6 of the 7 HBLs while just six states earned “B’s.” 12 million children live in these highest-performing States/ territories.