Changing our Nation’s Paradigm on Education and Health

January 14, 2014

Health and learning, inextricably connected.

by Rochelle Davis, HSC President + CEO

At HSC, we believe that health and learning are inextricably connected. Our health system and our education system have the potential to work together in ways that can help close the achievement gap and reverse the trends that, unless we make some significant changes, will lead today’s children to live shorter and less-healthy lives than their parents.

Recognizing this connection and acting to strengthen collaboration between the health and education sectors is one of the most important steps we can take to support the success and well-being of the next generation. But how do we make it happen?

As the new year begins, I am optimistic about our opportunities to make meaningful progress toward this goal. I am particularly excited about the opportunity to work with many of our nation’s top experts to build on the recommendations of the Working Group on Health and Education which I had the opportunity to co-chair in 2013.

This is the latest step in the journey HSC began with Health in Mind, an effort focused on recommendations for the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services to work together and make simple, powerful changes for children’s health and education.

Health in Mind reached a new level in 2013 when, at HSC’s encouragement, former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin created the Working Group on Health and Education. She charged this group with a set of tasks that, in essence, mean changing our nation’s paradigm around school health. I’ve had the honor of co-chairing this group along with Jeff Levi, chair of the Prevention Advisory Group and executive director of the Trust for America's Health.

The Working Group has developed a strong set of recommendations, including a proposal to create a National Collaborative on Health and Education. These recommendations and a proposed framework for the National Collaborative will serve as a blueprint for continuing this effort in both the federal government and the private sector in the year ahead.

To be honest, it can be challenging to talk about this group’s work in a way that conveys its full impact and importance. It’s a lot easier to talk about changes happening on the ground — in classrooms, in the community, in school health offices — than about collaboratives and working groups.

But even though it is not always easy to describe, this work matters. It is fundamentally about building schools’ capacity to address the very real needs that exist today and the needs we can’t yet anticipate; it is also about building the health sector’s capacity to engage the community, including schools, in truly promoting health.

I’m honored to be part of this effort and heartened to be working alongside a truly impressive group of advocates and experts.

In the months ahead, we will introduce you to the members of this diverse group and will bring you updates on its progress. We will also spotlight some of the issues that the Working Group for Health and Education has identified as priorities, including:

  • How can health delivery systems, both in the traditional health sector and in schools, be redesigned to better support the delivery of health promotion and disease management services to improve the health outcomes for students?

  • What metrics can be used and/or developed that are common to both the health and education sector?

  • How can the non-governmental sector (including private philanthropy and business) promote greater integration of health and education?

  • How can stakeholders advance the economic and equity case for closer integration of health and education?

  • What opportunities exist to support and integrate the pre-K and early learning sectors into this work? What lessons can be learned from the pre-K and early learning sectors to inform this work?

  • What are the policy or regulatory opportunities that can support systems redesign, the development and integration of metrics, workforce development and other areas that support schools in creating the conditions of health for students?

If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of the Working Group’s efforts and recommendations leading up to this point, I invite you to download the full report of the Working Group on Health and Education here . I also invite you to learn more about Health in Mind here.

I look forward to sharing more updates on this exciting project in the weeks ahead.