Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Education Linked to Health in Top Issues for Latinos in 2015

Education and health recently appeared on one line in an NBC article listing the top “5 Issues Latinos Will Watch in 2015.”

Experts often find it difficult to separate the two, because the success of so many children depends on their health, Suzanne Gamboa writes. 

Obamacare has shown some results in cutting the numbers of uninsured Latinos, while education numbers show a drop in Latino dropout rates and improvements in college attendance – albeit mostly at community colleges. Common Core and Obamacare aren’t favorites of many Republicans. But initiatives to provide early education for more young children have bipartisan backing outside the Beltway. What kinds of changes may be in store on these two fronts, if any, and how will they impact the large Latino school population and the high rate of Latinos without health insurance?

According to a 2012 Center for American Progress report, half of all Latino children born in 2000 are at risk of developing diabetes, and Hispanic children have the highest childhood obesity rate in the country, with about two in five children being overweight or obese. 

In California, Latino children have the highest risk for dental health problems, researchers state in ”The Critical Connection Between Student Health and Academic Achievement,” a study funded by the The James Irvine Foundation, The California Endowment, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. 

Seventy-two percent of Latino children surveyed had experienced decay, and 26 percent had rampant decay — defined as cavities on seven or more teeth — at nearly twice the rate of non-Hispanic white children surveyed. “Children with poor oral health and poor general health are 2.3 times more likely to report poorer school performance than those with good oral health, even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors,” the study states.

A study by the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University also lists vision impairment, asthma and sexually transmitted diseases among health risks affecting Latino youth. 

Along with education and health, Gamboa also mentions the economy, jobs and income, Latino politicians, immigration and the 2020 census among the issues Latinos should be paying attention to this year. 

She isn’t the first to list education among the top priorities for Latinos. During election season, I blogged about a Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report, which named education the most important issue for Latino voters. Health care was No. 3.