The many implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been widely felt around the world. In addition to the lives that have been lost, we have also seen and felt the impact the shutdown and the economic downturn have had on mental and physical health. Unfortunately, many experts are predicting that the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the worst economic recession in our lifetime (nytimes.com).
Some of those most deeply affected by a recession of this magnitude will be those living at or below the low-income threshold. For low-income, at-risk youth across the country the implications of COVID-19 are felt at a deep level. In addition to the loss of jobs and resources by their parents/guardians the simultaneous closing of schools creates problems more urgent than a simple interruption of their education, particularly in areas of health and social services.
Those most deeply affected by a recession of this magnitude will be those living at or below the low-income threshold.
It has been generally concluded that there is an undeniable relationship between health outcomes, socioeconomic status and poverty (healthypeople.gov). Low-income people are more likely to suffer from mental health problems and greater health risks. In the County Health Rankings, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation cites that 20% of children living in Las Vegas are living in poverty. These children, who are already more inclined to suffer from poor health, will feel increased pressure now more than ever due to the looming recession. So, in what ways can these children be supported during these challenging times?
While parents and guardians are also struggling with the impacts of COVID-19, our schools are uniquely positioned to offer support to underserved families, many of whom depend on school resources for more than just educational purposes. Schools are not immune to the effects of the recession however, and when budgets are tightened often resort to cutting social and health related services to put emphasis on academic improvements.
However, when making tough decisions due to budget it is crucial that schools keep programs and services that support Whole Child growth, particularly in times of struggle. A Whole Child Approach ensures that children are healthy, safe, engaged and supported. Such programs blend academics, social-emotional development, and physical activity, helping children maintain both physical and mental health.
A Whole Child Approach ensures that children are healthy, safe, engaged and supported. Such programs blend academics, social-emotional development, and physical activity, helping children maintain both physical and mental health.
There are many programs and services that offer these important levels of support, including Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA). When GYSA first started, the number one goal of the program was to provide services to those who are most underserved. The GYSA School Sports Solution program provides affordable, school-based sports opportunities to Title 1 elementary schools in Southern Nevada and uses the Whole Child Approach by blending Sports, SEL, Character Development and Reading Mentorship.
GYSA and programs like it will be extremely important to at-risk youth moving forward. In the individual case of GYSA, school-based sports have been shown to not only have physical health benefits, but also support classroom learning and mental health. Additionally, by providing low-cost opportunities directly at partner schools, some pressure is taken off parents/guardians who are likely already struggling due to impacts of the current state of affairs across the nation.