06 Oct UCLA Study Finds Kids Attending Higher Performing Charter Schools Had Lower Alcohol and Marijuana Use
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Mitchell Wong, MD PhD
Professor of Medicine
Executive Vice Chair for Research Training
Department of Medicine
Executive Co-Director, Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program
Director, UCLA CTSI KL2 Program
UCLA Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research Los Angeles, CA 90024
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: It is estimated that social factors like poverty, education, and housing have a large impact on health. Yet, there are few interventions that exist to directly address those issues. Schools are a promising solution since society already invests heavily in education and schools are an everyday part of most children’s lives.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We conducted a study to estimate the impact of attending a high-performing public school on health and health behaviors. We used the admissions lottery of charter schools to identify two groups of students “randomized” into high- and lower-performing schools, and we observed differences that were substantial, immediate, and persistent through early adulthood.
Specifically, we found those attending high-performing public charter schools had 50% lower rates of alcohol use disorder and participation in risky marijuana use. We also found students who attended higher-performing schools had a 40% reduction in poor/fair physical health and a 33% reduction in obesity/overweight, but only among males. Among females, those attending higher-performing schools had higher rates of poor physical health and obesity/overweight. These findings were not explained by differences in academic outcomes.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Obesity and substance use are serious and highly-prevalent public health problems that have been very difficult to solve. Our results are encouraging and show that schools have enormous potential to improve the health of adolescents and young adults.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: We need to understand why females had worse outcomes after attending high-performing public schools. We are just beginning to understand which aspects of schools and the school environment impact health. Much more research in this area is needed, and we need to discover how to make schools healthier for all students.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?
Response: Medical care is important in improving health, but much of health is determined by factors outside the health care system, often before patients see a doctor. Many more intervention studies are needed to directly address the underlying social causes of disease and health.
We have no disclosures.
Wong MD, Meza BPL, Dosanjh KK, et al. Association of Attending a High-Performing High School With Substance Use Disorder Rate and Health Outcomes in Young Adults. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(10):e2235083. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.35083
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