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Enabling School Success to Improve Community Health

From an innovative play space designed to teach children about concepts of engineering and mathematics to an outdoor teaching kitchen to help students learn about nutrition and to new school health services for vulnerable teens, several recent community investments by the local hospital in Nantucket, Massachusetts, aim to help the island’s children stay and succeed in school. And for good reason:  there may be no better long-term investment in health.

A wealth of evidence, recently presented by Professor Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, supports a central role for rising levels of education in advancing the health of a community. Individuals with college degrees, for example, experience less coronary heart disease, emphysema, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease than do those with fewer years of schooling. At the other end of the educational spectrum, life expectancy is falling for those without a high school diploma. Part of the link between education and health is the more robust income that comes with higher-paying jobs. Having more education is also associated with healthier behaviors and less despair.

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