Education is an engine of social mobility with implications for health and well-being that extend across the entire lifetime. From birth, we are developing and learning. Supportive learning environments positively shape social and behavioral development and set children on a path that maximizes their capacity to learn, and positively shapes their social and behavioral development. The education sector encompasses formal educational institutions like schools, colleges, and universities, along with teachers, students, and curriculum. It involves the organized provision of knowledge, skills, and learning opportunities within these institutions. However, it is important to note that the definition may vary based on regional or contextual factors, and may not capture informal or non-traditional forms of education. By providing equal opportunities for success and maximizing individuals' potential, lifelong learning enhances health knowledge, promotes healthy behaviors, addresses health equity, empowers individuals for health decision-making, and fosters ongoing personal and professional growth.
Education influences not only individuals but also communities, societies, and economies, shaping health outcomes and well-being on a broad scale. While specific statistics may vary, studies consistently show that higher levels of education are associated with improved health outcomes, reduced mortality rates, increased access to healthcare, and overall better well-being. Landmark events, infectious disease outbreaks, and social movements have shaped the current situation for the education sector. Education is also an engine of social mobility. Higher levels of education are linked with more income, better health, and increased opportunities. Conversely, disparities in access to education and educational attainment persist, and can be perpetuated across generations.
The most impacted groups have evolved over time, influenced by changing social, economic, and political factors. Historically marginalized groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, individuals from low-income backgrounds, and those facing systemic barriers have consistently faced significant impacts in accessing quality education. Today, these populations continue to be disproportionately affected by the education sector, alongside other vulnerable groups such as individuals with disabilities, refugees, and girls/women in certain regions where educational disparities persist.
Technological advancements shaping educational delivery methods, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on remote learning and school closures, increasing attention to educational equity and inclusivity, evolving curriculum requirements, and the integration of health and well-being into educational settings to address public health concerns collectively contribute to the dynamic state of the education sector. Important equity considerations for those working in the education sector include addressing disparities in access, closing the digital divide, and addressing systemic barriers that disproportionately affect marginalized populations.
Education matters at a system level because it empowers people with knowledge and skills for making informed health decisions, promoting health literacy, and fostering positive health behaviors, ultimately leading to improved population health and well-being. Changemakers and stewards can advance systems change in education at scale by advocating for policy reforms, promoting collaborations, implementing evidence-based interventions, and addressing social determinants of health.
Local communities and changemakers can influence education by actively engaging in grassroots initiatives, advocating for inclusive and equitable education policies, fostering partnerships with schools and educational institutions, and promoting community involvement in decision-making processes. They can support programs that address social determinants of health, provide resources and support to students and families, and create supportive environments that prioritize health and well-being in educational settings.