The recently released publication U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health is an eye-opener for many reasons, not least its findings that American children (and adults) are in worse health than those of other OECD countries. But this is a blog about teaching and learning, so I will focus on its findings about the effect of poor education on health.

Diane Ravitch has long and often argued that children’s health and their education are strongly interconnected. Hence her recommendation that “education” should start with antenatal education and preparation of poor and otherwise disadvantaged mothers, and continue in a public program of pre- and post-K education combined with parental support. But the US Health report gets down to detail:

• In 2006 the life expectancy of 25-year-old American men without a high school diploma was 9.3 years shorter than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher education; the corresponding disparity for women was 8.6 years.

•  Early-childhood education helps shape early childhood development, which in turn shapes readiness for school and ultimate educational attainment.

•  Knowledge, problem-solving skill, and a “sense of control over life circumstances” come with education, and these “psychosocial factors” have been strongly tied to healthful “behaviors.”

•  While some research shows that unhealthful “behaviors” and poor education merely have common antecedents, other evidence supports “causal connection” between education and health. (I suppose that given the way social “science” goes, someone has got to “prove” that people take better care of themselves when they know how to do so, and that I should be grateful for the grunt work. Thank you, grunts!)

Their concluding “Next Steps” include, as recommendations for countering the “social factors” in poor American health, improved education for children and young adults. Readers of these postings know that I have sometimes disparaged “scientific” results that seem to “prove” what everyone already knows, but when “science” and humanity coincide in the important recommendation that poor kids get the care they need, it is worth reporting.

(Who knows? It might raise some of the blame from the teachers of these children, who even now are being disciplined or fired for “value-added ratings” that are due to circumstances beyond their control.)


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