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Asthma and Absenteeism: The Relationship Between Pediatric Asthma and Student Outcomes


By Kevin Chan

Pediatric asthma continues to be a significant, intractable health issue in the United States and is a significant contributor to school absenteeism for school-age children. In 2013, children aged 5 to 17 years old missed 13.8 million school days. That is a staggering figure by itself, but it is difficult to comprehend the impact it has on those students and the communities where they live. The link between asthma and school absenteeism is generally known, but the effect to which they are linked is difficult to quantify.

The goal of this publication is to disentangle the relationship between asthma and absenteeism, and to estimate the impact to which absenteeism negatively affects the student and her broader community. To illustrate the steps in analyzing this relationship, we use data from Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city where the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) has been working with local partners on a pediatric home visiting project.

The analysis finds that for some individuals, asthma may lead to chronic absenteeism (defined as missing more than 10% of school days) and failure to graduate from high school. As a result, those individuals pay the biggest price for their disease – future lost wages from the absence of a high school diploma total a present value of $745,000 over one’s lifetime. Federal, state, and local income tax revenue is thus reduced throughout the individual’s years in the workforce.

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