Graduation Is A Public Health Priority
Educational attainment is the leading health indicator for adult health, even when other factors such as race and income are taken into account. Though a college degree is additive, completing high school in four years increases the likelihood of practicing health promoting behaviors, experiencing better health outcomes, living longer and reducing the incidence of mortality and sickness in offspring. By contrast, school dropouts are more likely to die at younger ages from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, infection, lung disease, and diabetes. And the children of mothers who have dropped out of high school are twice as likely to die before age one and six times as likely to suffer from poor health all their lives, if they survive.
The very conditions that impact the health of children and adolescents – asthma, pregnancy, and other unmet physical and mental health needs – also can prevent them from graduating from school. Education and health are really two sides of the same coin. It is difficult to obtain one without the other. Not only does the science indicate that education is the best predictor of poor adult health, students who dropout of school will face economic obsolescence as adults. As a consequence, they will most likely not have health insurance and limited access to health care. And will probably have great difficulty assisting in the educational success of their own children- all of which continues the cycle of poverty and disparities.
For these reasons and more, graduation is a public health priority and is acknowledged as such in Healthy People 2020. The infographic below communicates the importance of educational attainment, a social determinant, as a focus for one of the high-priority health issues (Social Determinants) in the United States that serve as measures of the Nation’s health.
Creating health equity is a guiding priority and core value of APHA. Discover how we promote equity.
APHA/CSHE advances school-based health centers (SBHC) as a public health strategy to reduce health inequities and increase graduation rates among high risk and vulnerable children and adolescents. By virtue of its comprehensive development strategy , CSHE provides capacity building and technical assistance to SBHC leaders and their school partners, for the integration of essential public health principles, strategies, and policies in the clinic and school-wide. Through a framework grounded in achieving equity, this work aims to advance equity for school-age (k-12) youth by integrating the goals of primary care, public health and education for improved population health.
APHA’s report, Better Health Through Equity: Case Studies in Reframing Public Health Work highlights state and local efforts from health agencies and one Tribal Nation across Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin to address the root causes of health inequities. Those root causes include racism and unequal distribution and access to resources such as a living wage, health care, and quality education and housing. The report features the stories of the health agencies as they shifted their thinking and their work from focusing on health disparities to advancing health equity.
Peer Learning Community
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The Center at APHA’s Annual Meetings
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Preventing high school dropout is a necessary step to ensure educational success, but is also a public health priority, as students who complete high school are more likely to live happy and healthy lives. Following are some relevant resources.
- Education Matters for Health
- Healthier Students are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap
- Linking Improvements in Health-Related Quality of Life to Reductions in Medicaid Costs Among Students Who Use School-Based Health Centers
- Toward a Healthy High Schools Movement: Strategies for Mobilizing Public Health for Educational Reform
- Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue
- Key References
Public Health Organizations and Other Related Resources:
- American Public Health Association (APHA)
- APHA: School Health Education & Services Section (SHES)
- National Assembly on School-Based Health Care (NASBHC)
- Center for Disease Control’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH)
- American School Health Association
- The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools
- Coalition for Community Schools
- Prevention Institute
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO)
- National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO)
- Public Health Foundation (PHF)