The connection between health and learning are clear, as a new report from the Ounce of Prevention Fund states:
A healthy child is less likely to miss school and is better able to concentrate and process information in class, and the skills the child acquires in school often pay off in mental and physical health benefits down the road.
But with almost 1 in 5 children living in poverty, safe and healthy environments are not a given. To radically improve the percent of children living in poverty who graduate from college—currently only 9 percent—we must start early and focus on the whole child.
The report, Start Early to Build a Healthy Future: The Research Linking Early Learning and Health, analyzes recent research findings and provides recommendations for research, policy and practice in the realms of both early childhood education and health care:
- Direct health resources to the youngest and most vulnerable children from the prenatal period to age five.
- Implement effective and evidenced-based practices that meet young children’s comprehensive needs in both early education and health care settings.
- Invest in systems to support high-quality and effective services in early childhood and health care settings.
- Build cross-sector collaboration to support young children in achieving good health, broadly defined to include children’s interrelated health and developmental needs.
- Embark on research and evaluation that explore the link between early learning and health.
To support our children’s long-term academic success, we need to invest in high-quality early childhood programs with an intentional focus on health. This support has a powerful role to play in narrowing the health and achievement gaps and elevating children’s chances at a healthy and bright future from the very start.