Exercise, eating healthy, and regular medical appointments are well-known factors in a person’s overall health; however, a surprising factor – education – has been studied and is now included as a factor of life expectancy.

The County Health Rankings interactive model identifies education as a Social and Economic Factor, which accounts for 40% of a person’s overall health outcomes. Other health outcomes include:

  • Health Behaviors – 30%
  • Clinical Care – 20%
  • Physical Environment – 10%

Education falling into the most important category speaks volumes to how it affects health.

According to Healthy People 2030, “People with higher levels of education are more likely to be healthier and live longer.”

Healthy People reports that children in low-income families, children with disabilities, and children who experience forms of social discrimination (bullying) are more likely to struggle with reading and math. Those same kids are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college. Later in life, the lack of education means a barrier to safe housing, high-paying jobs, and a much higher chance of developing health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

The stress of living in poverty can affect a child’s brain development making it difficult for them to do well in school.

Locally, 16% of Cambria County and Somerset County children live in poverty. Pennsylvania’s children poverty rate is 14%.

In addition, many children live in areas with poorly performing schools, and, after high school, many families can’t afford college.

Healthy People’s goal is to increase the proportion of 4th-graders with reading skills at or above the proficient level to 41.5 percent. Their data shows that in 2017, only 36.6 percent of fourth grade students had reading levels at or above grade level. Over a two-year period, that number decreased to 35.3 percent in 2019.

By investing in schools and providing students with a strong educational base, they will have better health outcomes in their future.