Category Archives: Education
Recommended Listening: Baltimore Schools Get First Big Funding Boost for Infrastructure Improvement in 40 Years
Baltimore public schools are receiving a new $1 billion infrastructure investment—the first funding the school district has seen to actually build new schools in almost 40 years, according to a recent interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show with Bishop Douglas Miles, co-chair of BUILD and co-founding member of Baltimore Education Council. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley last week signed a law authorizing the funds for school construction and renovation. Eventually, 15 schools will be built and 35 will be repaired and renovated.
“The conditions in the schools have deteriorated,” said Miles. “Boilers breaking down annually in the middle of the winter, buildings lacking windows, water undrinkable because it’s lead-tainted—and our children deserve better than that.”
A growing wealth of data shows a positive relationship between the quality of school buildings and student outcomes. Also, about 85 percent of the 85,000 students in Baltimore schools receive free or reduced-cost lunch, the city has the lowest graduation rates in the state and nearly 140 of its 162 public schools are in very poor condition.
This infusion of funds will help promote academic success for the city’s students by decreasing education disparities. In the long-term it also has the potential to help improve the health of all Baltimore residents, as better education leads to better jobs, higher incomes, and longer, healthier lives. NewPublicHealth has previously illustrated the connection between education and health outcomes in an infographic.
>> Listen to the Tom Joyner Morning Show interview.
“Death is an inevitable part of life. But death from preventable causes like cervical cancer, early heart disease, or gun violence is a tragedy. Whether expressed in dry, cold numbers or by the images of first graders smiling at the camera for their school picture, these tragedies will continue to motivate us to use both left-brain science and right-brain passion to improve human health and prevent unnecessary death.”
That paragraph is from the foreword by Michael Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) in the current issue of the school’s magazine. The issue is devoted to how public health researchers and practitioners probe, investigate, understand and fight death.
The full issue is well worth reading. A few notable pieces include:
- An interview with Vladimir Canuda Romo, PhD, a demographer and assistant professor at the school who says his research shows American life expectancy is on the rise.
- A critical article on making palliative care a public health issue.
- A summary of a recent forum at the school on dealing with gun violence.
- A piece on prescription drug abuse, which the author calls the “biggest public health issue you’ve never heard of."
Perhaps most poignant are a collection of essays by JHSPH alumni including a thoughtful look at the last minutes of a deer.
>>Bonus Link: In a new book, Happier Endings , Erica Brown, PhD, the scholar in residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, tells her readers: “we are all going to die, but some of us will die better.” The book, which Dr. Brown calls “a meditation on life and death,” looks at the deaths of several people and shares intimate details of last months, last weeks, last seconds—sometimes peaceful, sometimes not. It’s an important reminder that communities and populations, the building blocks of public health, are made up of individuals who are loved, and missed when they pass away, and that death is indeed a public health issue worth attention.
First Grade Math Skills Set Foundation for Critical Skills Needed Later in Life
Children who failed to acquire basic math skills in first grade scored far behind their peers by seventh grade on a test of the mathematical abilities needed to function in adult life, according to new research supported by the National Institutes of Health. The basic skills tested include the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it, to manipulate quantities and to make calculations. The researchers say these skills, called numeracy, are the foundation of all other mathematics abilities, including those necessary for functioning as an adult member of society. Starting with poor number knowledge can put children so far behind that they never catch up, according to the researchers, who also reported that more than 20 percent of U.S. adults do not have the eighth grade math skills needed to function in the workplace. Read more on education.
About One in Five U.S. Adult Cigarette Smokers Have Tried an Electronic Cigarette
In 2011, about 21 percent of adults who smoke traditional cigarettes had used electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, up from about 10 percent in 2010, according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, about six percent of all adults have tried e-cigarettes, with estimates nearly doubling from 2010. During 2010-2011, adults who have used e-cigarettes increased among both sexes, non-Hispanic Whites, those aged 45–54 years, and those living in the South, according to the CDC. In both 2010 and 2011, e-cigarette use was significantly higher among current smokers compared to both former and never smokers. Awareness of e-cigarettes rose from about four in 10 adults in 2010 to six in 10 adults in 2011. Read more on tobacco.
The NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series is underway, including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries and their National Prevention Council designees, exploring the impact of jobs, transportation and more on health. “Stable Jobs = Healthier Lives” tells a visual story on the role of employment in the health of our communities.
- Since 1977, the life expectancy of male workers retiring at age 65 has risen 6 years in the top half of the income distribution, but only 1.3 years in the bottom half.
- 12.3 million Americans were unemployed as of October 2012.
- Laid-off workers are 54% more likely to have fair or poor health, and 83% more likely to develop a stress-releated health condition.
- There are nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries each year.
- The United States is one of the few developed nations without universal paid sick days.
View the full infographic below.
Tuesday, January 8, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST, the Harvard School of Public Health, in collaboration with Reuters, will present an hour long live webcast on gun violence, in response to the too many recent gun massacres.
The webcast is part of the school’s ongoing “Forum” series, whose aim is to provide a platform to discuss policy choices and scientific controversies by leveraging participants' collective knowledge. Tomorrow’s forum on gun violence will look at the legal, political, and public health factors that could influence efforts to prevent gun massacres.
Participants include Laurence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School; Felton Earls, MD, professor of child psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; David King, senior lecturer in public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and chair of Harvard’s Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress; and David Hemenway, PhD, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
In advance of tomorrow’s Forum, NewPublicHealth spoke with Dr. Hemenway about ongoing research efforts aimed at preventing gun violence and gun massacres. Dr. Hemenway is the author of Private Guns, Public Health, which demonstrates how a public-health approach—historically applied to reducing the rates of injury and death from infectious disease, car accidents, and tobacco consumption—can also be applied to preventing gun violence. Dr. Hemenway’s book was supported by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Investigator Award in Health Policy Research.
NewPublicHealth: What is the overall goal of the Forum?
Dr. Hemenway: The Forum series focuses on how public health can help impact many major issues in the U.S. We are able to gather experts at Harvard who are working on these issues to provide information about what we know and to share ideas on approaches to help address these problems.
NPH: On tomorrow’s panel, you’ll be discussing the issue from a public health approach. What are some of the concepts you’ll be sharing?
A new op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune makes clear the connection between improving the economy and improving public health — especially when it comes to children. One can’t be accomplished without the other, according to authors Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, the president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Arthur Rolnick, PhD, a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota and former senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
By improving early education for kids — and even for parents before birth — we can dramatically improve the chances that kids will grow up to lead longer, healthier and more financially successful lives. This will benefit them individually and all of us collectively. The obstacle standing before public health officials and policymakers is to recognize this connection, the authors write.
“For many years, we have missed this connection because we tend to create policy in silos –with education under one roof, housing and economic development under another, and health under yet another roof. In reality, these policy areas are all interconnected and influence one another.”
>>Recommended reading: Read the full story.
>>Recommended viewing: Life Expectancy Disparities along I-94.
Also watch a video with Arthur Rolnick about the return on investment for investing in early childhood education.
United Way of North Central Florida is focused on the building blocks that lead to a good quality of life – education, income and health – recognizing that communities are stronger when children are successful in school, families are financially stable and people are healthy. One of their primary roles is as a convener, to bring hundreds of organizations together across diverse sectors to set priorities and create change.
As part of our series looking at the work of United Ways across the nation in creating healthier communities, we spoke with Debbie Mason, President and CEO of the United Way of North Central Florida, and Mona Gil de Gibaja, Vice President of Community Impact, about their community planning process, strategies for effective partnerships, and the role of critical partners such as businesses and the local health department.
NewPublicHealth: What is the planning process you’re engaging in to set priorities around education, income and health?
Debbie Mason: Our major focus is education, but this is so inextricably linked to income and health. No matter where you start, you still wrap into the other two.
The NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series is underway, including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries and their National Prevention Council designees, exploring the impact of education, transportation and more on health. “Better Education = Healthier Lives” tells a visual story on the role of education in the health of our communities.
Also check out:
As the National Prevention Strategy is rolled out, NewPublicHealth will be speaking with Cabinet Secretaries, Agency directors and their designees to the Prevention Council about their prevention initiatives. Follow the series here.
We recently spoke with Donald Yu, Senior Counselor to the General Counsel of the U.S.Department of Education and designee to the National Prevention Council, about the connection between health and education.
>>Listen to a related podcast with the Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan.
NewPublicHealth: What is the connection between education, high school completion, employment and health?
Don Yu: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has always said that education is the civil rights issue of our generation, and that concept has really infused all of our work in all of our areas. In terms of the question about how health relates to education, high school completion and employment, I think it’s intuitive but also backed up by emerging research that there is a strong correlation between good student health and improved performance on academic assessments. Obviously, if students are hungry they cannot focus in class; much less perform on a test. Or if they can’t see well, can’t see the blackboard, they obviously can’t learn as well, and my point about the civil rights issue is that those kinds of health disparities impact low income and minority communities the most.
NPH: And what are some of the initiatives and innovations already underway at the Department of Education to support the National Prevention Strategy?
Much attention has been paid on NewPublicHealth and elsewhere to the connection between education, health, economic opportunity, and even life expectancy. Sadly, when we consider the health and life trajectories for our young men of color in this country, it’s clear that we have a lot of work to do. Boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in poverty, live in unsafe neighborhoods and attend schools that lack the basic resources and supports that kids need in order to thrive. In addition, actions that might be treated as youthful indiscretions by other young men often are judged more severely and result in harsher punishments that have lasting consequences. Only about half of African American, Hispanic and Native American boys graduate from high school on time with their cohort. Down the road, pathways to stable, productive employment can be limited – they commonly lack access to career and positive mentorship connections. And disparities in their access to and quality of health care services persist.
RWJF Program Officer Maisha Simmons attests that the options for our young men of color have been too limited for too long. That’s why today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), through its Vulnerable Populations portfolio, launched the Forward Promise initiative to strengthen education opportunities, pathways to employment and health outcomes for boys and young men of color. A new Call for Proposals released by the initiative today will focus on the following areas:
- alternative approaches to harsh school discipline that do not push students out of school;
- solutions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing school graduation rates;
- mental health interventions that tailor approaches to boys and young men who have experienced and/or been exposed to violence and trauma; and
- career training programs that blend workforce and education emphases to ensure that students are college- and career-ready.
NewPublicHealth caught up with Maisha about the challenges facing young men of color and the quest for collaborative solutions.
NewPublicHealth: Paint us a picture of the health and quality of life of young men of color. What are some of the causes of the disparities that persist?
Maisha Simmons: If you look at the statistics around men of color, specifically African American men, they usually die sicker and younger than any other population in this country. There are a lot of variables, but what we’ve begun to focus on is, what are some of the non-traditional, non-medical factors that go into that?
So for us, we began to really focus on education, workforce and mental health issues and how they coincide with opportunities for health. When you look at young men and boys of color, their school outcomes are often worse. There are large number of young men not finishing school and they often don’t finish high school with their cohorts. We know the linkages between school and employment often have a collective impact on health outcomes.
NPH: What are some other experiences that influence the health and quality of life of young men of color?