North Carolina doesn't have enough school nurses or counselors, and that's impacting child health across the state. The North Carolina Institute of Medicine and the advocacy group N.C. Child gave the state "D" grades for school health and mental health on its Child Health Report Card.
Dr. Adam Zolotor, president of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, said environmental stressors are taking a toll on young students.
“We've seen almost a doubling from 2011 to 2015 in high school students who have attempted suicide in the past year,” Zolotor said. “And we have also seen about a 50 percent increase in the number of students with major depression from 8 percent to 12 percent... And I think that is potentially relevant.”
Having more nurses and counselors in schools could help identify and intervene to help students in crisis before it's too late, Zolotor said.
The report card also gave North Carolina an "F" grade when it comes to housing and economic security.
Zolotor said child poverty rates have improved some since the Recession, but there's still a huge racial gap. Minority children are twice as likely to be poor or near-poor, which impacts their health.
“They're much more likely to live in substandard housing,” he said. “They're much more likely to be exposed to neighborhood violence. They're much more likely to live in food deserts and have poor access to high quality and nutritious foods. They're more likely to develop diabetes. They're more likely to develop heart disease and have uncontrolled asthma. They're more likely to have mental health problems.”
Zolotor said state policies which improve low-income tax credits, job opportunities and affordable housing could make a significant difference for these kids.