Graduation Rates Are High, But Are Graduates Healthy?

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June is the month of high school graduations, and I’m happy to see that graduation rates in the United States are historically high.

I can’t help but note however, that these numbers don’t tell us whether young adults are graduating and entering the workforce, matriculating to college, and/or entering the armed services as healthy – and therefore, as productive – as they could be.

And as the board member of an American global manufacturing company and one of the top pediatric children’s hospital systems in the United States, what I really want to know about our high school graduation results is

How many 18 year olds are graduating with high scores for health and well-being?

 

Beyond the Diploma

Research suggests that chronic illnesses are on the rise among American children; not surprisingly, this trend threatens to burden the healthcare system as well as America’s ability to compete in an increasingly global economy and even protect our country.                                      

While there are many amazing organizations providing support and resources to help children grow up healthy and parents to raise healthy children, it’s not always easy to coordinate these resources or even learn about them, depending on the circumstances.

 

The Promise of Technology

A growing chorus of medical practitioners and educators point to technology as a solution.

Yes, the very same devices and digital tools that cause immeasurable amounts of teenage drama (and parental exasperation) are also the keys to addressing some of the most fundamental challenges to securing the health of the next generation.

Here are three very practical -- yet potentially profound -- ways that existing technology is being used to help our children graduate from high school with higher scores for health and well-being:

     • Smartphone Apps. The slim rectangle that appears to be attached to your child’s hand is also a tool for ensuring health and well-being, whether the app helps a child to manage his or her diabetes, asthma, or anxiety.

     • School-Based Partnerships. School nurses in some institutions are already connecting with doctors, specialists and mental-health professionals as well as parents via video-conferencing during the school day and without the student taking an absence or a parent having to take time off. 

     • Supportive Platforms. From intuitive, comprehensive directories to software that allows practitioners to e-prescribe a non-medical-but-health-related service to a patient, platforms connect families with the resources and support they need to prevent or manage chronic conditions.

 

Mission Not Impossible

Integration -- across devices, software, and patient records -- may pose the biggest challenge to implementing these technologies. Then again, others in healthcare will tell you that operations, policy, adoption, and funding are equally if not more challenging.

The good news is that payers and employers are getting on the technology bandwagon, and many innovative providers, hospital systems, school systems, non-profits, and government agencies are also eager to create solutions that improve outcomes (while reducing costs).

My hope is that, as a country, we begin viewing graduation from high school as a health milestone in addition to an educational milestone, and that we measure the rate at which we can confidently say we are setting the next generation up for success in every meaning of the word.

Because when we grow a healthy and educated workforce, we can look forward to a bright economic future for our graduates and for our country.

 

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