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Health and Today’s Teenager: Understanding High School Student Health Issues

A smiling female teen student speaks with a school psychologistUnderstanding the common teen health issues that impact high school students can help educators improve classrooms, schools and districts. These concerns are not confined to physical health but also mental health and the impact of bullying in school.

Teachers who recognize these situations can identify the signs and symptoms of teenage health problems. They also are better equipped to teach students how self-care can help them manage their health and support improved wellness.

The Impact of Health on Student Success

The increased focus on teen wellbeing is part of a “whole child” approach to teaching that measures student success by academic performance and the physical and social-emotional wellness of each child in the classroom. This approach requires teachers to appreciate how teen health impacts their students.

This methodology also improves academic performance. Research shows that “school health programs reduce the prevalence of health risk behaviors among youth and have a positive effect on academic performance,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC further reports that risky health behaviors such as early sexual initiation, violence and substance use consistently lead to poor grades, test scores and lower educational attainment.

Common Teen Health Issues Among High School Students

Teens face various health challenges. For those in underserved communities, the issues can worsen, including a higher likelihood of mental health issues brought on by trauma.

In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Education calls attention to the nation’s mental health crisis, noting that the “escalating mental health needs” of children and teens remain unmet due to “insufficient capacity, multiple barriers to care and disparities across populations.”

Students who experience bullying are at risk for mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Bullied students are also more likely to feel lonely and want to avoid school.

Some of the most common teen health issues include the following, according to Very Well Health.

  • Suicide. About one in 11 high school students attempt suicide.
  • Gun violence. Most firearm injuries and deaths in children and adolescents are related to guns in the home.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases. About half of all STD cases involve those between the ages of 15 and 24.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Nearly all nicotine addictions start in young adults. Also, 30 percent of high school students admit to alcohol use in the past month, with 14 percent admitting to binge drinking.
  • Eating disorders. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder, all of which can alter behaviors, thoughts and emotions. In the worst cases, they can become fatal.
  • Obesity. About 20 percent of teens in the U.S. meet the official definition of obese as identified by measuring Body Mass Index (BMI).

Preparing Teachers to Help Students with Teenage Health Issues

Fresno Pacific University offers Health and Today's Teenager as part of its large variety of online professional development courses for teachers. High school teachers who take the online course earn three professional development credits while learning how to better understand the health issues that impact their students.

The course considers both physical and mental health, covering a broad range of teen health challenges. Module topics include the following:

  • Physical Fitness
  • Nutrition
  • Self-Esteem
  • Peer Pressure
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Stress Management
  • Sleep
  • Weight control

Graduates from the course learn how to identify and understand health-related issues that students might be dealing with. They also learn to develop and implement health-related activities in their classroom and how to obtain essential and accurate health resources off the internet.

Participants in the course also explore the definition, goals and objectives of health based on national education standards, helping them create assignments that promote better self-care and improved overall wellness for teens in their classroom.

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