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Overview: Healthy Students Healthy State

How to ensure a healthier future for all…by starting with students

Healthy Students Healthy State dramatically improves children’s physical and mental health—by finally connecting the programmatic, policy & financial dots…at the state, local & federal levels—to provide and sustainably fund sufficient levels of quality student health & wellness education through schools.

Teen depression and suicide attempts are at historic highs, 1 in 3 teens now have prediabetes, and nearly 8 in 10 are not even qualified to enlist in the military—across incomes & ethnicities.

At the school level, this includes consistently funding and mandating quality: local school wellness policy plans, physical & health education, school counseling & nursing, effective school-community partnerships, and other key resources.  Together, these develop K-12 students’ healthier habits cost-effectively statewide, and empower them for a much healthier life.

Under Healthy Students Healthy State, state legislatures, the federal government (primarily Medicaid), and private health plans (insurers & self-insured major employers) co-invest each year, paying roughly 1/3 of the cost each.  And they are assured of achieving positive health outcomes and high ROI, since schools must use effective evidence-based strategies, and results are measured regularly for accountability and continuous improvement.  These are on-going conditions for the schools to receive continued investments.

We have a long-term, ever-worsening crisis in child & teen mental and physical health across our society—made much worse by how we have slashed K-12 school time for physical activity, health education, counseling and other preventive education. 

By sustainably developing healthier habits K-12, children become empowered for greater success in all aspects of their lives.  And our health care costs (which all of us share in with each other through taxes & insurance) will be significantly lower than current trajectories. 

Done/Next graphic

See our Plans, Policies, Programs, & ROI/Payback webpages for more details.

Stakeholders: >10x ROI

Each of these large stakeholder groups saves an ever-increasing amount in lower health costs, as healthier students become healthier adults. (And in the case of employers and the state, they gain higher profits from higher productivity and higher tax revenue from higher GDP, too.)

Benefits begin immediately during K-12, when up to half of these co-investments are paid back. (Parental & family components may accelerate these savings significantly.) Savings continue near-term in young adulthood, when costs are fully paid back. The ROI for each stakeholder group exceeds 10x.

Compare the below financial benefits, to the cost per stakeholder group growing to about $200M-$300M/year, totaling $500M-$1B/year in investment in Healthy Students Healthy State.

Savings Table

Philanthropists: 1000x ROI

BTW: the ROI for philanthropists investing in capacity-building grants in Healthy Future US itself is even greater: over 1000x.

This is because investing $1.5M/year in our organization’s work can lead to $500M+/year in new Healthy Students Healthy State money into schools—which in turn leads to $10B+/year in medical savings and higher GDP. $1.5M/yr leading to $10B/yr exceeds 1000x ROI.

(The amount which needs to be invested in each state will vary, but relative returns for philanthropists should exceed 1000x in each case.  Voter initiatives and other early political investments are likely to add significant but non-recurring costs in the early years.)

Philanthropic impact graphic

The Why for Healthy Students Healthy State

We need to be brutally honest.

It is very difficult for most adults to make major improvements in their health habits that last for decades.

Doctors continually advise their patients to eat healthier and to be more active and to be less anxious.  And some people do make major long-term lifestyle changes.

But for the vast majority of adults, those healthier habits do not last long—even if they try hard to do what their doctor recommends.  They then have a lifelong dependence on prescription drugs to moderate the effects of their cardiovascular, diabetes and other health issues, resulting from their unhealthy habits.

The one lifestyle bright spot has been a major reduction in smoking.  Yet we are not applying strategies, which worked to reduce smoking, to the more recent dangers of inactivity, unhealthy nutrition and mental unwellness.

As a society, we are missing our opportunity in childhood to build much healthier habits.  During those crucial childhood years, kids are very open to change.  And we have a unique 13-year “captive audience” K-12 for preventive education.

Instead, we spend a tiny fraction of health care dollars on prevention in general, and almost none of that small amount is invested in schools.

Stopwatch graphic

According to the CDC, close to 90% of US health care spending is for the 60% of people with chronic disease (including 40% of adults with multiple conditions). Chronic conditions cause at least 80% of Medicaid spending (Medicaid—AHCCCS in Arizona = “free health care for the poor”)…which primarily middle- and upper-income taxpayers pay for.  And mental health costs are mounting rapidly, too.  Yet the vast majority of those health conditions are preventable.

Increasingly, those chronic conditions and mental health issues are starting very early in life—in adolescence, young adulthood or middle-age!

But by investing in K-12 preventive education just 2% of what we are spending on health care, we can reduce adult chronic disease & associated costs by 20%—and with follow-through policies in adulthood, by 50% or more.  Mental health can also improve dramatically—both indirectly with more physical activity, and directly by learning to deal better with stress etc.

Investing in Healthy Students Healthy State is medically, fiscally & financially, as well as ethically & morally, compelling. 

New “Miracle Drugs”:
Semaglutide (Ozempic/Wegovy) &
Tirzepatide (Monjauro/Zepbound)…& TBD…

The Good News:  You can lose 10-20+% of your weight within 1-2 years with a weekly injection (soon to be pills)—in some cases preventing & even reversing Type 2 diabetes.

The Mixed News:   Americans’ health is so bad and our health care costs are so high, that paying many hundreds of dollars each month per person, in order to put most of the US population on these drugs permanently, may actually have a positive ROI.  (Of course, more physical activity & healthier nutrition have a MUCH higher ROI than Ozempic et al—especially when we start developing those habits K-12.)

The Bad News:   You need to take these “miracle drugs” for the rest of your life, often at @$500-1000+/month total cost, to keep the weight off—and the long-term risk & effectiveness are uncertain.

Win-Win-Win…Win:  Together Moves the Needle

To be fair (to political leaders, to the health & education sectors, and to ourselves as advocates):

If it was easy to “fix” the chronic disease epidemic, as they say,
it would have been done already.

The education and health sectors are siloed and have radically different goals:

  • Educators are overwhelmingly incentivized to maximize reading, writing and math standardized test scores—with student health & wellness a much lower priority.
  • Health care providers are overwhelmingly incentivized to manage diseases—not to keep people from getting them in the first place.

But there is a growing opening for a win-win…extending to many more stakeholders as well:

  • Education leaders recognize that physical & mental health affect academic achievement—and they do care about kids’ health and preparing kids to become successful in life including with their health habits—not just with success in testing.
  • Health leaders are increasingly under pressure to reduce the growth in health care costs—including by keeping people healthier, not just receiving fees for medical treatments, prescription drugs, and other disease management products & services.
  • Employers, employees & families are paying ever-increasing amounts for health insurance & care (including skyrocketing deductibles).  These costs severely limit salary increases and disposable income—and are increasing financial pressure on family & business (& government) budgets.

Healthy Students Healthy State is bringing together a “win-win-win+” group of philanthropic, state, federal, and private stakeholder groups to invest in sustainably high-ROI, evidence-based K-12 strategies, in order to improve child health and reduce current & future health costs.

Emerging Prevention Coalition

Emerging Prevention Coalition graphic

By explaining and helping implement the synergistic benefits for all, and with a strong track record of progress already, Healthy Future US is uniquely positioned to continue successfully leading this work.  We expect to be a key catalyst in our states and country to finally address this issue in an effective and sustainable way.

See our PlansPoliciesPrograms, & ROI/Payback webpages for more details.

More Info: Healthy Students Healthy State Details