Why do health care organizations invest in schools? Because clinical settings alone have not been improving health behavior adequately. Without healthier behavior, the chronic conditions epidemic will grow—and continue to harm children, families, employers, and government budgets.

In fact, K-12 is the only practical, affordable setting to instill healthy habits in our population as a whole. (Of course, healthy habits must be reinforced in the workplace and at home, to prolong habits learned at school into adulthood.)

Edunuity has estimated that we can reduce preventable chronic conditions and associated costs among the non-elderly adult population by 20%, through the Empower Youth Health Program and other K-12 approaches—then up to 50% among the entire adult population, by reinforcing the Empower Youth Health Program with other policies for ages 0-5 and among adults.

Healthy Future US and our coalition are making significant progress toward increased health sector funding of quality effective physical and health education, recess, and physical activity at school.

Once health insurance plans step in to help reimburse these costs, and the legislature and AHCCCS/Medicaid co-invest, we can reach $300-500 million per year in new money into Arizona schools—while reducing & preventing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, many cancers, & other chronic health conditions. (Yes, even many cancers are associated with the lack of physical activity and unhealthy nutrition; obesity is the second largest preventable contributor to cancer, following smoking.)

K-12: 1st Year/Every Year Health Payback

Due to the high prevalence of ADHD, Asthma, Obesity & Behavioral Health issues, regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) provides $30-50 in annual child health savings each year–up to 3-5x Year 1 ROI, given Empower Youth Health Program costs at-scale of $10/student/year.

So private & public health plans & health care organizations & employers can pay back their investment in our selected initial K-12 programs in the first year, since our programs dramatically & sustainably increase MVPA.

This addresses health organizations’ central objection: that they are under extreme financial pressure, and find it difficult to invest now in children—if the payback is only later, in adulthood.

Yes, you read that correctly: an investment in the Empower Youth Health Program is paid back in the first year.

[The “fine print”: the school must have a certified PE teacher with adequate instruction time for PE. We estimate that a significant minority of K-12 schools could implement EYHP at present. Many, perhaps most schools would need to add some PE time. This could be done through a combination of restoring time taken in the past from PE, and adding PE instruction time with a combination of legislative General Fund appropriations plus K-12 Prevention Fund dollars from health spending—see below.]

In addition, the Fit Kids program, which adds staff to K-8 schools to increase physical activity & nutrition education, is estimated by Edunuity to save $60-90/child/year, due to reduced child obesity & other health conditions—paying back in the first year its somewhat higher costs, which result from adding on-site health aides to increase physical activity.

Since these programs “pay for themselves” immediately, the long-term cost savings with both programs fall “straight to the bottom line”.

Beyond K-12: Long-Term Health ROI

Also, over the long-term, the sheer impact of postponing the on-set and reducing the severity of later-life chronic conditions for an average of 5 to 10+ years, through 13 years of much better whole-student-population preventive education and healthier behavior K-12, is logically, ethically and medically compelling.

We have rough estimates that our initial school-based approaches could save 20% or more of current cumulative non-elderly adult preventable chronic costs at their current level, and could save up to 50% of future chronic costs at projected future levels, given current health trajectories. This is supported by a growing number of studies.

Please see our latest slide deck for more details.

Arizona Community Foundation   

Many thanks to Arizona Community Foundation for its fiscal sponsorship and support!