April 12, 2017
Center NewsCommunity EngagementEducation

We all know that a good education is important, but how can our education impact our health?

Education creates opportunities for better health through a variety of avenues. It can lead to better jobs, higher earnings, and the ability to access and afford resources necessary for good health. In turn, those with more education often experience less of the stress that can accompany social and economic hardship. Additionally, education brings more knowledge and understanding of healthy behaviors and interactions with health providers. Lower incomes and fewer resources lead to an increased likelihood that those with less education living in neighborhoods that lack resources for good health, such as supermarkets, green spaces, primary care physicians, and quality schools, among others.


Just as a lack of education can lead to poor health, the reverse is also true – poor health can lead to educational setbacks and interfere with a person’s schooling. If a child has a chronic illness, he or she may be frequently absent from school and unable to concentrate in class, leading to poor school performance.

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, are the chronic exposure of infants and toddlers to stressors, and they can affect a child’s brain development and endocrine and immune systems, which can cause biological changes that increase the risk of health conditions later in life. This is why early childhood education is so important. It can help children build knowledge and develop literacy, thinking and problem-solving skills, and character traits.

According to research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), early childhood education can also help children overcome disadvantages they may experience and improve their social and cognitive development. Above all, early childhood education can provide children with an equal opportunity to achieve desired outcomes in school readiness, employment, income, and health. In the long-term, it can lead to reduced teen birth rates and crime rates, healthier weight in children, and reduced child maltreatment, among other things. Analyses conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy demonstrated that early childhood education programs can lead to benefit-to-cost ratios of as much as $5.19:1.

To address the issue of early childhood education in Richmond, VA, the Center on Society and Health is working with the City of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building as part of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to study how we can help children start strong when it comes to education. This partnership is part of an effort in the city to develop a structure that allows for stronger coordination across multiple early childhood services, as well as build new models to connect families to early childhood education support services. In conjunction with Engaging Richmond, the Center is involving the community stakeholders in conversations and analyses in order to help grow a community-wide framework designed to ensure that families of young children have access to comprehensive support services to strengthen their child’s early education.

The evidence has shown that early childhood education is necessary to provide children with a positive start not only in education, but in health as well. An investment in education is an investment in health.

To learn more about the Center’s work to raise awareness between education and health, read about our Education and Health and Connecting the Dots Initiatives.