“Education, as we know, is the best ladder to essentially success in the 21st century, and it’s the single most important modifiable social determinant of health.”

During the APHA 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in October, Anthony Iton, senior vice president of Healthy Communities at the California Endowment, spoke to APHA TV about the connections between education, health and longevity. In addition to the above quote, Iton noted that research has found — and continues to find — that educational attainment is correlated to life expectancy.

For example, in a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers documented a “marked increase” in mortality among middle-aged white men and women in the U.S. However, while all education groups in that demographic experienced increased mortality risk, those with less education faced the most significant increase. Iton also noted more recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics that found life expectancy decreased by 0.1 years for U.S. white women.

Fortunately, Iton told APHA TV, there are community-level strategies that address the social determinants of educational opportunity — and those same determinants often overlap with health as well. In particular, he said student health is about more than physical activity and healthy eating. Schools must also address students’ social and emotional health to help kids stay in school and graduate on time, he said.

So, how can schools develop strategies that anticipate and address the social and emotional needs of vulnerable students? Partner, Iton said — partner with public health.

View Iton’s full APHA TV interview, as well as many more APHA TV episodes from the 2016 Annual Meeting, here.