A Healthy Interest in Education

Special Focus : The Role of Education to Achieve Sustainable Development
Access and Inclusion November 04, 2014
This article 4 of 4 in our special focus on education’s impact on development and why the new development goals must go further to ensure that all children have access to quality basic and secondary education. This special focus is co-produced by Global Partnership for Education.

To many it may seem obvious that healthy children are happy children, and happy children are those who can partake in, and benefit from, a good education. These happy children are far more likely to go on to prosper in later life, utilising the many skills a good education affords: social awareness, building relationships, patience and understanding, self-discipline, developing passions and interests and much, much more.

When viewed in isolation, education in most countries today is seen as a given, but what happens when a child is not well enough to attend? Often this barrier is a physical one; in poorer parts of the world, hunger and malnourishment prevent children from attending school. Sometimes the barriers are mental; obese children are more likely to perform badly at and abscond from school due to self-doubt and unhappiness[1].
Education plays a major role in the way people feel about themselves, their communities, their earning potential, sense of citizenship and of course their health and I feel very passionately about the way in which education and wellbeing go hand in hand. This is why the collaboration between WISH and WISE is so important to me. Our expert panel at WISE, titled ‘Education and Wellbeing’ , recognises that there is an urgent need to have a more integrated approach that enables policy makers to meaningfully and measurably join the dots between education and wellbeing[2].
The correlation between wellbeing and education is the cornerstone of any thriving nation. Wherever you are in the world, the costs of failing to explore and invest in identifying and eliminating the links between poor health and poor education are apparent. Addressing the impact of this symbiotic relationship will not only improve hundreds of thousands of lives, but could also save governments hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser has played an incredibly active role in highlighting the association between education and health, and indeed social progress. Her involvement is a real boost for all of us who hold this issue close to our hearts.
The joint panel at the 2014 WISE Summit investigated the need for greater innovation, imagination and creativity in this area, so that we break the links which bind poor health and poor education. I believe our WISH – WISE partnership is well placed to provide some real leadership and will develop possible solutions such as;

  • A greater relationship between policy research and innovation, and action. So that research leads swiftly to initiatives that tackle poor health and educational failure.
  • More scope for tailored, local projects to improve wellbeing and thus education. Wellbeing is affected by factors such as adequate nutrition, housing, physical safety, family structure, education and adequate health services. There needs to be greater coordination so that local agencies can work together to minimise any impact on learning.
  • More investment in health education so that it helps people make more informed health choices. Studies show that people with better education tend to engage in less health-harming behaviours, such as smoking – we should be investing in campaigns at this early stage to reduce the huge impact of poor health choices on individuals and to economies.
  • Clearer communication to create better learners. Support education and health professionals so that they are better equipped to explain to parents and young people how better health and nutritional choices can help them in real practical terms to engage, learn and ultimately earn.


The three basic need states are food, shelter and clothing. I believe that education is the silent fourth. Schools are the foundation for successful futures, happy citizens and productive communities, but they can only deliver these riches if our children are happy and healthy enough to attend and engage.
Researchers at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) will further explore innovative approaches to promoting mental wellbeing in children and young people – in the family, in schools and in communities. Chaired by Professor the Lord Richard Layard, Wellbeing Program Director at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE), our forum will produce an evidence-based report for discussion and debate at the 2015 WISH Summit taking place on 17-18 February in Doha.
By collaborating with global partners, and indeed WISE, we strengthen our mission to improve the next generation’s health and offer them the opportunity to learn and thrive undeterred.

Opinion By Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation

[2] Durlak, J. A., et al. (2011). “The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: a meta-
   analysis of school-based universal interventions.” Child Development 82(1): 405-432.