At the intersection of health and education: One community’s story

New policy brief and video explore the complex connections between education and health

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The links between education and health are complex and tied closely to income and the opportunities people have to lead healthy lives in their communities, according to a new policy brief and video released today by the Virginia Commonwealth University Center on Society and Health with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The policy brief and video uncover why the relationship between education and health is intertwined and demonstrate how educational opportunities can be a lifeline for one disadvantaged Richmond community – the East End.

The video and policy brief explore three main connections between education and health:

·  Education creates opportunities for better health. Americans with more education are more likely to have better jobs with higher earnings and to live in communities with greater resources, including better schools and access to nutritious food, health services and transportation.
·  Poor health puts educational attainment at risk. Education is a strong determinant of later health status, but poor health can also cause educational setbacks starting at a young age. Children with chronic illnesses like asthma, for example, are more likely to be absent from school and to have difficulty concentrating in class.
·  Certain conditions — especially beginning in early childhood — affect both health and education. A person’s socioeconomic status, home environment and other contextual factors can create stress, cause illness and deprive individuals and families of resources for success in school, the workplace and healthy living.

“Poor neighborhoods oftentimes have poor schools, and these poor schools oftentimes lead to poor educational outcomes,” said Albert Walker, community-academic liaison for the VCU Center on Society and Health. “These poor educational outcomes then lead to poor jobs, and the poor jobs push people right back to the poor neighborhoods.”

Walker is part of the Engaging Richmond partnership, a group of community researchers in the Richmond area who collaborate regularly with center staff to help them understand the real-life connections between community life and health outcomes.

“Part of what we are trying to do is connect the dots, and help people in the health care field understand the importance of education as a potential strategy for preventing disease and lowering health care costs,” said Steven H. Woolf, M.D., director of the VCU Center on Society and Health. “We want to help the many people working in the area of education reform to recognize that improved health outcomes are among the benefits that come from a better education. If we really want to save lives in this country, prevent diseases and reduce health care costs, we have to make stronger investments in education.”

Through the center’s Education and Health Initiative (EHI), Woolf and his colleagues hope to sound the alarm and raise awareness about the important connections between education and health. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the EHI will release two additional briefs demonstrating why an investment in education is an investment in health. The first in the series was released in January.

For more information about the Engaging Richmondpartnership, visit