April 6 – 12 is National Public Health Week. Each day of NPHW is marked by a theme, from Mental Health to Economics. Today’s theme is one close to my heart…Education.
I have been given the privilege to work with children from all walks of life. I have worked as a Teacher Assistant in Ward 8 of Washington, D.C., and I have also worked as a Substitute Teacher throughout a few counties in Maryland.
My experiences in education have always made me wonder what the world would be like if every child was given the same opportunity. If there was a level playing field, if certain systems were not in place, and if equity existed in education.
The first time I had this thought, I was subbing at a private school outside of D.C. Seeing how the children were being taught, the resources available to them, even seeing what they were served for lunch, brought tears to my eyes. I truly wish that all children could receive more than what is given to them. What would the outcome of some of my girls from Ward 8 be if they were given the same opportunities and their teachers were given the same resources?
When we think about education and different outcomes, we must ensure that we think about the link between education and health.
Studies have shown that individuals with less education are, “more likely to experience obesity, substance abuse, and intentional and unintentional injuries,” while those with higher levels of education live longer and are able to access and understand health information to make informed decisions.1
The education that a person receives, or their level of education, may impact their health in the long run. The higher the level of education someone receives, the more likely they are to have a better job, and a better job may mean having access to better healthcare.2
There is another side to this story. Some children miss school and are chronically absent because of their health, unrecognized or untreated health conditions, and/or a lack of access to care, putting them at a disadvantage if they are unable to catch up.3,4
One of my students would be hospitalized for days at a time because of asthma flareups. Thankfully, her mother would come to the school to get her homework and asked questions about what was being taught.
In another situation, when I was a volunteer in Ghana, a student missed one week of school because of a large gash on her knee she received after falling. Afraid that the wound would become infected, the student’s mother made the decision to keep her daughter home from school. She was also able to keep up with her peers once she returned. However, not every student is able to bounce back after missing a few days of school.
Both education and health impact each other. This post focuses on health and education, but other factors such as environment and safety, social norms, economics, and language are a few social determinants that are equally important.
There is no cookie cutter solution to deal with the inequalities that many are faced with, regardless of age; impacting their access to adequate healthcare and health information, as well as access to an education system that is fair across the board. But, each of us can use our gifts, our talents, and our voices to help those in need and to advocate for justice for those who are underserved.
. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Health Disparities. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/index.htm
. Baum, S., Ma, J., Payea, K. (2013). Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. College Board.
. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). School Attendance, Truancy & Chronic Absenteeism: What Parents Need to Know. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/school/Pages/School-Attendance-Truancy-Chronic-Absenteeism.aspx
. Allison, M., Attisha, E., & Council On School Health. (2019). The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health. Pediatrics, 143(2). https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/143/2/e20183648.full.pdf