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 & Healthy Future US have estimated that we can reduce preventable chronic conditions and associated costs among the non-elderly adult population by 20%, through the Plan-Develop-Assess model and other K-12 approaches—then up to 50% among the entire adult population, by reinforcing highly-effective evidence-based K-12 programs with other high-ROI 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, evidence-based physical and health education, recess, physical activity & stress reduction at school. Once health insurance plans step in to help reimburse these costs, and the legislature and AHCCCS/Medicaid co-invest, we can eventually 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 among children now, regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for all children at a school pays for itself rapidly. It can provide $30-50 in annual child health savings each year for each elementary student, and $50-75+/year for each middle & high school student.
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: given costs of $10/student/year at-scale, health plans can pay back their investment in the Plan-Develop-Assess model in the first year.
[The “fine print”: the school must normally have a qualified PE teacher with adequate instruction time for PE. We estimate that a significant minority of K-12 schools could implement P-D-A 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 from new money—see below.]
Beyond K-12: Long-Term Health ROI
In addition, there is huge future upside from postponing the on-set and reducing the severity of later-life chronic conditions in adulthood. Through 13 years of much better whole-student-population preventive education and healthier behavior K-12, we can expect future annual savings of thousands of dollars per lower-income adult.
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.
This investment is medically & financially as well as ethically & morally compelling.
Please see our latest slide deck for more details.
Arizona Community Foundation
Many thanks to Arizona Community Foundation for its fiscal sponsorship and support!