A child’s wellness can have a significant impact on that child’s performance in the classroom, those in the education field tell us.

That’s why we continue to be ardent supporters of health screenings – including eye and ear checkups – for kids before they go back to school.

Area classrooms will begin welcoming students for the 2019-20 school year beginning this week.

Now is the time for parents to have their children checked – to set the stage for a great year of learning.

Dr. Jeff Cook of Johnstown’s Pediatric Care Specialists told reporter Randy Griffith he would like to see screenings required for all students.

Griffith tackled the subject in the August installment of our monthly series “Health Matters.”

“If they are in sports, the (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) requires it,” Cook said. “They have to get that exam every year. Summer camps require that physical every year. Are schools so much different?”

Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and president emeritus of Children’s Health Fund, said his organization pushes mandatory annual screenings in six health areas: dental care, vision, hearing, asthma, hunger and behavioral issues.

A child experiencing extreme hunger or an asthma attack can hardly be expected to focus on the lesson.

At Greater Johnstown School District, nurse Tracy Pecora said eye examinations are a priority. Some students have educational challenges simply because they need glasses, she said.

“It’s hard to learn if you can’t see the board or the book,” she said.

Pecora told Griffith that vision screenings are just part of a larger health awareness movement.

Many families are dependent upon emergency rooms or clinics for many basic health concerns – due to cost or availability. Pecora said she urges families to find doctors they like and stay with them throughout their children’s school years.

“Consistency of care gets lost sometimes,” she said. “It’s so important for one physician or practice to be following the child, year in and year out.” 

Redlener’s Children’s Health Fund says – in its 2018 study, “Missed opportunities: Do states require screening of children for health conditions that interfere with learning?” – that “children who live with persistent adversities or chronic stress” often fall behind their peers in the classroom.

The study points to “unrecognized or under-managed health conditions,” but said that often those seemingly uncommon ailments are the result of basic health concerns that “can be identified relatively easily and can be treated or addressed by a medical professional.”

We’re blessed in the Johnstown region to have the Highlands Health free medical clinic, which can work with families that have income challenges. A concert on Aug. 24 at Peoples Natural Gas Park – featuring Pittsburgh rocker Donnie Iris – will benefit the free clinic.

But even parents with insurance or financial means sometimes forget how important it is to have children screened before the youngsters return to school – to give them the best possible chance to succeed.

As Griffith reported, Pennsylvania requires two annual screenings – vision and growth rate. 

Hearing screenings are required in primary grades then once in junior high and once in senior high.

Children’s Health Fund gave Pennsylvania a grade of B for its screenings programs.

So the state can do more to help schools and parents.

Our kids deserve our best effort.

Redlener said: “The least we can do is find out if they are suffering from any health problems that can affect their learning.”

We agree.

Let’s get them screened for more health concerns, and more frequently – and help them shine in the classroom and then later in life.

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