A New National Initiative Highlights the Link Between Health and Education

January 15, 2016

We know health is key to ensuring students are in school and ready to learn. We see evidence of that link every day in our work here in Chicago and across the country. That link was highlighted this morning as part of an announcement from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education (ED).

The two agencies unveiled Healthy Students, Promising Futures, a joint effort to renew commitment in supporting quality health care and education for every child. “Every young person in America deserves to live a healthy and successful life,“ said John King, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education in a national stakeholder call announcing the initiative. “Too many students—including low-income students and students of color—are facing health disparities. Poverty can be a cause and a consequence of poor health, which can contribute to children’s academic performance.”

Through a joint letter to Chief State School Officers and State Health Officials and a detailed toolkit that includes practical steps to help states, districts and schools to implement the recommendations in the letter, ED and HHS outlined five ways to support student health:

  • Help eligible students and family members enroll in health insurance
  • Provide and expand reimbursable health services in schools
  • Provide or expand services that support at-risk students, including through Medicaid-funded case management
  • Promote healthy environments through nutrition, physical activity and health education
  • Build local partnerships and in hospital community needs assessments

The National Collaborative on Education and Health, which is co-convened by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), was well represented on the conference call announcing the initiative. The Collaborative, which brings together advocates, policymakers and school stakeholders from multiple sectors, works to support schools and communities in creating the conditions of student health and wellness.

“Healthy Students, Promising Futures embraces the spirit of the National Collaborative on Education and Health,” said HSC President and CEO Rochelle Davis. “Through the Collaborative, we have heard from many communities on how they have worked together, across sectors, to support student health and learning. These experiences highlight the power of what these types of collaborations can do.”

Healthy Students, Promising Futures encourages cross-sector collaboration—a key tenet of the National Collaborative. “This is the kind of cross-sector initiative we envisioned that achieves the goals of both departments—improving health and education outcomes for kids and reducing disparities,” said Jeff Levi, former Executive Director of TFAH. “Much of our work has focused on creating a dialogue and catalyzing partnerships between public health, Medicaid, hospitals and health systems on the one hand and school, education and community leaders on the other.”

We applaud the Administration for taking on this important national issue. “We see the National Collaborative emerge as an important place for stakeholders to come together around a shared vision. We are pleased to see that  ED and HHS are embracing this approach. We look forward to working with ED, HHS and other partners on this initiative to make sure that all students are in schools where they can learn and thrive,” Davis said. Please visit the Department of Education’s website to read about all of the aspects of the initiative.