Your Health Class Starts Early

Early education programs improve health and health behavior for later in life

(RxWiki News) After following 111 individuals from infancy through adulthood, researchers have found that infants who are enrolled in intensive early education programs are more likely to have better health and health behaviors later in life.

Previous studies have shown the educational benefits intensive education interventions for low-income children, but this study is only the second of its kind to examine the health benefits of such programs.

The first study examined the effects of a program at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in North Carolina. The program consisted of a curriculum that intended to improve cognition and language development in the enrolled infants. The researchers found that those infants, compared to a control group, had a higher IQ by three years of age, improved reading and math achievement by age 15, decreased rates of teen depression, and increased rates of college enrollment.

The new study, which draws data from the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC), builds upon the original study by assessing the influence of ABC on health and behavioral risk factors. Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health examined ABC's impact on three health measures: the number of self-reported health problems since age 15, a depression index score, and the number of hospitalizations within the last year.

They also examined eleven behavioral risk factors covering issues including traffic safety, drug use, and access to primary care. The Columbia researchers found that individuals who were enrolled in the ABC program demonstrated substantially better health and health behaviors. What's more, these individuals showed improved results regardless of IQ, educational attainment, or health insurance status.

According to Columbia professor Peter Muennig, M.D., these findings show that early education programs may have the potential to increase income and prevent crime. Such programs, he adds, might even improve the competitiveness of the American workers on the international stage.

Review Date: 
January 17, 2011