Among the factors that contribute to health inequity is the quality and duration of education - from early childhood through post-secondary education and/or job training.
The Root Cause Coalition tells us that, at age 25, U.S. adults without a high school diploma can expect to die 9 years sooner than college graduates. Given this single data point, we view education as a priority in achieving our vision.
Education is a pre-cursor to employment. More education generally means a greater likelihood of being employed at all, and of having a job with healthier working conditions, better benefits and higher wages. More education is linked with higher-paying jobs providing the necessary income to live in neighborhoods that are less stressful, have stores with affordable healthy foods, and provide access to recreational facilities. (RWJF Education and Health Issue Brief #5)
While having a job is better than unemployment, having less than a high school education makes a person more likely to work jobs with lower wages, resulting in only being able to afford living in areas that are more impoverished and have less infrastructure to support healthy behaviors, such as grocery stores with fresh produce according to APHA member Paula Braveman, MD, MPH, a research director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America.
Adults with higher levels of education are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, and are more likely to have healthy behaviors related to diet and exercise. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicate that in 2009-10, 35 percent of adults who did not graduate high school were smokers, compared to 30 percent of high school graduates and 13 percent of college graduates. The impact of education on health behaviors is clear.
The stress of chronic unemployment or underemployment can also raise levels of the hormones in the body, which, over time, can wreak havoc on organs and result in chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
So the evidence of the need is clear - and the power to impact the above is within us. We will support the efforts of organizations in the community involved in early childhood education, improving educational experiences and success throughout school years and providing job training and post-secondary educational endeavors.