Health and education are inextricably linked

All children should have an equal opportunity to achieve their dreams. Unfortunately, we know that’s not the case today. In education, a persistent academic achievement gap separates white children and children of color—and wealthier children and their lower-income peers. A similarly large health gap mirrors these differences of race and socio-economic class.

Doctors, educators, and researchers are beginning to untangle the root causes of these gaps. Many children face challenges that put them far behind before they get to school—challenges like poverty, neglect, family instability, and poor environmental conditions. These traumatic childhood events alter the body’s ability to maintain health and promote optimal brain development. Research shows that nearly one in five children is at significant risk for poor health and educational outcomes due to these adverse childhood experiences.

Supporting the whole child

Despite the strong connection between education and health, schools and health care centers often don’t have the time, resources, or reach to address the complex and interrelated social and emotional challenges children face. In addition, the divisions between the education and health care systems mean that services aren’t coordinated—and families in need can fall through the cracks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By integrating education and health services, we can meet the full needs of children and their families—and make sure they have support to thrive.