Addressing Both Health and Academic Achievement Gaps in Rural Contexts

Document Type


Presentation Date


Abstract or Description

Background/Significance/Purpose: High-poverty rural school systems across the country are struggling to address dual youth challenges that threaten their students' future quality of life—obesity and academic achievement. In rural southeastern Georgia, students suffer from other poor health outcomes due to the disparities in resources available in the school and local community. Socioeconomic disparities that result in gaps in health/physical activity are also the same disparities that are linked to the gaps in academic achievement. The purpose of this study was to examine health and demographic indicators as predictors of academic achievement among a rural Georgia school district. Methods and Results: Georgia recently adopted a policy requiring schools to implement the FITNESSGRAM, an assessment battery for all components of fitness beginning fall 2011. Georgia Southern Health and Physical Education faculty partnered with a local rural school district in Screven County, Georgia to pilot test the FITNESSGRAM and examine the association between FITNESSGRAM scores and scores on the state's standardized test (CRCT). Participants included 1143 school aged students (500 elementary, 476 middle school, and 167 high school). Hierarchical step-wise regression analyses were conducted on math and reading standardized tests, using separate. FITNESSGRAM testing protocols (PACER, back-saver sit-and-reach, curl-ups, push-ups, and trunk lift), body fat percentage, ethnicity, race, gender, and SES as predictors. Results are in-progress. Conclusions/Recommendations: The results will help in planning community and school-based interventions for improvement of health and academic achievement as well as provide information on best practices and challenges faced while working with a rural school district. Learning Areas: Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs; Advocacy for health and health education; Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice; Diversity and culture; Other professions or practice related to public health; Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs Learning Ojbectives: Identify the benefits of FITNESSGRAM testing to health and academic achievement. Apply best practices in planning interventions for improvement of health and academic achievement in a rural community


American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition (APHA)


Washington, DC