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Early Health Ed Reduces Risky Adult Behaviors

A new study explores the link between early education programs and adult health, and how early educational interventions affect health outcomes.

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers found that early education reduces health behavioral risk factors by enhancing educational attainment, health insurance coverage, income, and family environments.

However, since the follow-up survey was conducted at age 40, the cohort may still be too young for these reductions in behavioral risk factors to translate into improvements in overall physical health outcomes.

The study, available online in the American Journal of Public Health, will be published in the August 2009 issue.

The researchers followed children between the ages of 3 and 4 years and through the age of 40 years. Considered a critical window for children’s intellectual and socioemotional development, these prekindergarten years are thought to be especially important for children whose parents have a limited amount of education.

“Earlier research indicates that prekindergarten programs targeting children from low-income households produce lifelong improvements in schooling, income, family stability, and job quality,” says Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator.

“These intertwined improvements in social circumstances may, in turn, improve health through reductions in behavioral risk factors, enhanced job safety, better health insurance coverage, safer neighborhoods of residence, better access to healthy foods, and lower levels of psychological stress.”

Dr. Muennig also says the findings are consistent with those of nonrandomized studies in which high levels of educational attainment have been shown to directly improve health status.

“Some have questioned whether education leads to reductions in behavioral risk factors, arguing that most people are aware that risky behaviors are bad for their health, and that higher educational attainment as well as better health can be attributed to other factors. Our findings challenge such theories.”

Initiated in 1962, data from “Effects of a Prekindergarten Educational Intervention on Adult Health: 37-Year Follow-Up Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial,” is based on a study of 123 preschool-aged (3 or 4 years) children in the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program, who were recruited from low-income, predominantly African American neighborhoods in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Source: Columbia University

Early Health Ed Reduces Risky Adult Behaviors

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Early Health Ed Reduces Risky Adult Behaviors. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 23, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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