SEF’s Kent McGuire to Present Keynote Address at Next Week’s Change for Good Luncheon

July 16, 2014

Highlighting the critical link between health and education equity

Next Tuesday, HSC will host its annual Change for Good luncheon, highlighting the progress being made in Chicago schools to support student health. While the primary focus of the July 22 event will be to celebrate local progress and honor local advocates, the keynote speaker will highlight the national importance of this work and the critical link between health and education equity. As president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation (SEF), a 149-year-old organization dedicated to addressing educational equity in the South, Dr. Kent McGuire will share his organization's recent focus on student health as a critical component of education.

After serving as assistant secretary of education in the Clinton administration and heading up the College of Education at Temple University, Dr. McGuire took over the SEF helm three years ago. Addressing education equality in a region that has some of the country’s highest rates of poverty and some of the lowest rates of high school graduation and public school funding, Dr. McGuire started by taking stock of the many barriers that stand between the region’s young people and an excellent education.

With the understanding that education is the pathway out of poverty, Dr. McGuire studied the data points that affected children’s education outcomes. “That took me right into the health space,” he said. “The obesity rates are really high. Folks don’t have access to fresh and healthy food, the number of kids living in extreme poverty is disproportionately high, and these are the same folks who don’t have access to health care.”

It became clear to Dr. McGuire that to ignore health issues would be to ignore the very core issue at hand. It came down to a paradigm shift for his organization.

“Our approach to student health had been that people who are educated are healthier,” he explained. “We needed to flip that. People who are healthier are the ones who are going to learn!”

Similar to HSC’s Chicago-based approach, SEF works on regional education issues that impact the national dialogue. Focusing on student health, SEF makes regional connections between schools, advocacy groups and healthcare practitioners.

“It’s our job to build demand and create greater awareness around these issues,” said Dr. McGuire. “We need to present evidence for how much better things are when health and education are working together.”

As part of the National Collaborative on Education and Health , which HSC co-chairs with Trust for America’s Health, Dr. McGuire is part of the team working to more fully integrate the education and health sectors at the national level. Given his federal background, Dr. McGuire’s eyes are wide open to the issues and opportunities ahead.

“There are a lot of smart people working with their own tools, metrics and rules, but we shouldn’t have to figure this out 50 different ways,” he explained. “Our goal is to have one well-resourced national effort to work out some of these boundary-spanning issues around [health and education] data and metrics.”

But, he quipped, “If there was ever a time when resources are scarce and needs are great, I think the National Collaborative is in the catbird seat.”

Learn more about Tuesday’s Change for Good Luncheon and purchase tickets (while they last).