Title

School readiness: Meeting the challenge through health services in Head Start

Date of Completion

January 2000

Keywords

Education, Early Childhood

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

This study examined the effectiveness of health care services provided by the Head Start program in helping meet the National Education Goals. Specifically, Goal One states: “By the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn” (Executive Office of the President, 1990, p.3). ^ The Surgeon General's office has indicated that children's health and education are directly linked. Low-income children are sick more often and receive less access to adequate health care than their peers from more affluent families (Novello, 1991). This affects their ability and readiness to learn. Head Start's health component attempts to address this serious problem. ^ The study analyzed improvement of health care services for children as a result of attending a Head Start program. The subjects consisted of 161 children. Using a quasi-experimental quantitative approach, this study examined four research questions: (1) Is there a difference in the level of health care received by Head Start children versus middle income peers? (2) Is there a difference in the level of health care received by Head Start and middle income children versus those children on the Head Start waiting list? (3) Is there a difference in the level of health care received by home-based children versus their center-based Head Start peers? (4) Is there a difference in the level of health care received by children who participate in Head Start for two years versus those enrolled for only one year? Level of health care is measured through: (a) immunizations, (b) physical examinations, (c) health screenings and dental examinations. Data was collected by reviewing the medical records of participating children. ^ A score was given for the number of immunizations, physical examinations, health screenings, and dental examinations that each child received. Group means, standard deviations, and frequencies on dependent variables were tabled. Anova was used for the research questions. ^ This research found that Head Start increased the levels of health care for low-income children through the program's immunizations, physical and dental examinations, and health screenings. Enrollment in Head Start improved the health care of the children to levels nearly equal to youngsters from middle-income families. Further, two-year participation in Head Start caused even greater health benefits for children. ^