Education and Childhood Health in Reservations

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While maximizing the education of every child in America should be a priority, it is just as important as a means out of poverty. If the nation is to remain economically stable and influential over time, it is vital that children are healthy, well-educated, graduate from high school, and perform at their highest capacity. Unfortunately, many children are not ready for kindergarten, and even less for the difficulties of educational challenges later on.

Poor educational achievement has its roots in early childhood. Many children are not prepared to read at grade level in the early elementary years; then struggle to perform in middle school and are unable to graduate from high school. In fact, in some low performing schools, on-time graduation may be as low as 50%.

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There are many reasons for lower academic performance, especially for children who live with persistent hardships or enduring stress. Too often, there are health conditions that have gone unrecognized or under managed. These conditions may include asthma, vision problems, hearing loss, dental problems, continuous hunger, and some mental health and behavioral problems. Left untreated or under managed, these problems can unfavorably influence a child’s ability to see, hear, pay attention in the classroom, their motivation to learn, their attendance, their academic performance, and even their chances of being graduated from high school.

A few underlying aspects contribute to the higher occurrence and impact of these health issues among children who live in poverty. Poor access to health care and quality schools, extreme absenteeism, and other social issues affect development, learning, and health. Among the most important factors are adverse childhood experiences. These experiences are events during childhood that can increase the short- and long-term risk of negative health and social consequences. These events may include the child suffering physical, psychological, or sexual abuse, the presence of substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, or criminal behavior in the household. In addition to health effects, adverse childhood experiences are associated with diminished development of the brain, which may lead to long-term negative consequences in reasoning, language, academic abilities, and mental health. Negative educational outcomes include possible grade retention, low academic scores, disengagement with school, and attendance problems.

Behavioral and reasoning problems are more common in children who are victims of abuse and neglect. According to a survey of children in the general population, 52% of children with emotional, behavioral, or developmental issues have experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences, which is almost twice the rate for children without any emotional, behavioral, or developmental issues.

A great deal of learning happens through the visual systems even though all the senses are important. Vision problems, with varying symptoms, can affect skills related to learning. Having good eyesight helps in development and learning.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease which causes wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Mild asthma causes minimal concerns to daily life and activity. Severe asthma is described by frequent, more severe attacks and symptoms that can cause sleep disturbance, require urgent medical care, hospitalization, and, in some cases, death.

Children with asthma may not be ready for school, which may be significant for continuing a cycle of academic struggle. Children with asthma have been shown to have poor results on some tests of concentration and memory than those without asthma.

Problems with inattention and hyperactivity are the most common type of mental and behavioral health problems that affect children. Effects of ADHD are often severe with respect to academic achievement. The effects can include low reading and math scores on standardized tests, being held back a grade, receiving special education services, and lower academic achievement.

No matter how prepared a teacher is, or what procedures are in place, or what structures are established, learning growth will be limited if students are not motivated and able to learn. Health-related problems of children play a large role in limiting enthusiasm and the ability to learn. Addressing those problems can improve education as well as the child’s health.

The following resources are available on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. Many resources are combined into one facility (Owyhee Community Health Facility) but are all available to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation, American Indians and Alaska Natives enrolled or a descendant of a federally recognized tribe, and to individuals living on and near the reservation. Owyhee Community Health Facility offers services for managed care, ambulatory care and emergency services.

Managed care includes the following: Nurses do home visits and encourage patient follow-up with the clinic. Nurses advocate for client rights and maintain client confidentiality. They liaise between clients and health-care providers. They interpret for clients in the Shoshone or Paiute languages when needed, assisting with home-safety evaluations, community-health promotion, and disease-prevention activities. Nurses can also provide local transportation and medication deliveries for those who do not have other means of transportation. The Community Health Program assists with health fairs, seasonal walking programs, and child car-seat training and installation. Information on disease prevention and health promotion are displayed on the bulletin board in the clinic.

Owyhee Community Health Facility provides personalized care to assist with a commitment to better health for individuals and families. They offer services in, chronic disease management, well-child exams, pediatric medicine, diabetes care and much more. Specialty clinics are scheduled throughout the year for: Optometry, Audiology, Mammography, Hemophilia, and Behavioral Health. Owyhee residents can receive a wealth of preventative treatment as well as diagnoses, and support for ongoing treatment.

STOP Violence Against Native Women Program is a program for women and children that believes that every woman and her child have the right to be respected; to live in balance and harmony from all aspects of violence. This program provides leadership, resources and networking with other agencies, education on historic events of survival, and promotes the sovereignty of women and children while respecting the traditional practices and customs of Native people.

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