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Education & Health: Linking the Two

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In the article “Reforming Education: The Pay Way“, education has been defined as a tool which helps us live our lives better. Education has been defined as a means to reach a greater end and what greater end than living a healthy life without any diseases.

The Pareto Principle 

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Credit: baldocomics.com

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto gave us this immensely useful thumb rule. Widely used even in business, it is also known as the 80/20 rule. Put it simply, it states that 80% of the effects are due to 20% of causes. And it has had far-reaching consequences in decision making.

Used by Human Capital professionals, this principle would help them to identify the top 20% of their talents who, we would find if we did the requisite analysis, drive about 80% of the business growth, if not more. Any retail store would be better off focusing on their top 20% consumers who might drive up to 80% of their business.

Likewise, if you did a root cause analysis of the problems in your life. You would be surprised to find a common theme – 20% of the variables generating 80% of the problems. Let us take the example of someone who is an alcoholic. Suppose that someone identifies that drinking is really his/her problem and swears to stop/moderate his/her drinking. If that someone implements this decision, he/she would ensure that:

  1. He/she saves more.
  2. He/she spends less on medical expenses (which can be huge).
  3. He/she is never caught on the wrong side of the law.
  4. He/she has better relationships all around – less stress!

Wouldn’t life be better for that someone? Suddenly a bulk of his/her problems would be solved. And this brings us to the issue of “Health“.

“First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.”

Swami Vivekananda 

The tobacco epidemic is estimated to kill 1 billion people in the 21st century. And low- and middle-income countries like India would account for 80% of the tobacco-related deaths by 2030. So while we are talking about providing quality education and healthcare, we are failing to educate our masses, our youth about the importance of health. Healthcare costs can not only decimate families emotionally and financially, these costs affect the overall march-forward of our entire human civilization.

To reduce these costs, while more research initiatives have to be funded to make healthcare cheap and accessible, the cheaper way would be to make people aware. Just that. Through advertisements. Through campaigns. Through education.

Yes, education.

“Research based on decades of experience in the developing world has identified educational status (especially of the mother) as a major predictor of health outcomes, and economic trends in the industrialized world have intensified the relationship between education and health.”

Understanding the Relationship Between Education and Health: A Review of the Evidence and an Examination of Community Perspectives by Emily B. Zimmerman, Steven H. Woolf, and Amber Haley

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Picture Credit: www.erec.global

So while the easiest policy measure that a government can take to reduce healthcare costs would be to invest more and more in the education system and infrastructure, the first priority of education should be to make the learners aware of their health, aware of the costs that they would have to bear if ill-health befell them for unhealthy life choices.

I have often found that quantifying costs in terms of money has an immediate effect on the listeners, irrespective of the age bracket they fall in. Maybe we should start quantifying the costs and making it public. Maybe then we would start seeing some more positive change.

What do you think?

Sources:

Author: Amartya Dey, India

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