Education

For science.

A lack of education is one of the social determinants of poor health. Factors like poverty and unsafe neighborhoods can stack the deck against children even before they enter the classroom because educational achievement is directly linked to socioeconomic status and community environment. Twenty-one percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty. For black and Hispanic children, those numbers nearly triple (37.8% and 31.9%, respectively) those of white children (12.7%).[1] More than a third of black, Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Native students in the U.S. do not graduate from high school on time. When it comes to meeting the Healthy People 2020 graduation target of 82.4%, the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students is more than 10%. The number is even higher for American Indian/Alaska Native students.[2] Students who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school have lower rates of absenteeism and obesity, and higher rates of food insecurity.[3] Access to school-based health centers has a positive effect on schools’ learning climate.[4]

For action.

Demand equitable funding for all schools within your school district. Support school-based health centers that connect students to high-quality medical and wraparound support services.[5] Advance cross-sector partnerships that target the social determinants,[6] such as increasing job training opportunities, growing local employment and helping children achieve academic success. Help establish school health coordinating councils, with the help of your local health department and education agencies, to engage families and faith-based organizations, businesses, mental health and health organizations, and other community stakeholders. Such councils can link community health databases and school indicator databases to better track improvements and areas that need attention.[7]

For health.

Graduation from high school is linked to an increase in average lifespan for up to nine years. High school graduates have better health and lower medical costs than those who drop out. College graduates fare even better, health-wise.[7] Elevate the message that health and education are intertwined. Reach out to your local school boards and communicate your support for school-based health care services. Demand that school lunch debt policies do not punish children. Advocate for eliminating school lunch debt completely. School boards, parents and community members should "monitor and evaluate implementation of the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act at the local level to ensure equity in school resources, health services, healthy food access, and educator training across communities and to ensure that quality health education and adequate physical education are core school components."[2]

For justice.

Current distribution of economic resources to schools is based on property taxes. In neighborhoods and communities where property values are lower, schools see fewer resources. To introduce equity, resources should be distributed based on student needs.