For 24 years, America’s Health Rankings has tracked and ranked states based on a range of health measures. From physical inactivity to vaccinations, we have worked to understanding the factors that contribute to the health of our states and country. In addition to working at the state and national levels, we have sought to deepen our understanding of the relative health of various sub-populations. After all, for our states to be truly healthy, we have to minimize disparities between all segments of the population.
Our most recent America’s Health Rankings® report includes a new disparities section that for the first time looks at health by education level. The report outlines some dramatic and consistent findings.
Studies have shown that higher levels of education are related to living longer, regardless of age, gender, or race. In addition, people with higher educational attainment are substantially less likely to report being in poor health or experiencing anxiety or depression. Each step up the educational ladder (like the step from high school to college) generally correlates with a positive change in health status.
Why? Part of the answer seems to be linked with tools for healthier living that people acquire through education. High educational attainment has been shown to improve health directly through the adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress and more effective management of chronic diseases. And it also helps indirectly by granting access to improved work and economic conditions.
These findings underscore a few important needs: First, and most obviously, we need to do all we can to keep people in school. Second, we need to make sure we create health information tailored to people with different educational or reading levels. Third, we need to make sure we have outreach in place to get that information into the hands of those who need it most.
The United Health Foundation is keeping an eye on this issue because we now know that reducing health disparities is key to achieving healthier states. To that end, we just added new data to our website that helps us visualize how education and other disparities impact health. You can view that on AmericasHealthRankings.org/rankings by clicking on the Health Disparities tab.
We hope you take a moment to investigate how educational disparities impact your state. And we hope you will work with us to figure out how to make health information as accessible and actionable as possible for as many people as possible.
 Olshansky SJ, Antonucci T, Berkman L, et al. Differences in life expectancy due to race and educational differences are widening, and many may not catch up [disparities] Health Aff. 2012;31(8):1803-1813.
 Cutler D, Lleras-Muney A. Education and health: National poverty center policy brief #9. .http://www.npc.umich.edu/publications/policy_briefs/brief9/policy_brief9.pdf. Updated March 2007. Accessed August 15, 2013.
 Ross CE, Wu C. The links between education and health. American Sociological Review. 1995;60(5):719-745.
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Dr. Tuckson is an active member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and served as the Chairperson of its Quality Chasm Summit Committee and a member on their Committee on the Consequences of the Uninsured. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society. Additionally, he recently served as a Commissioner, Certification Commission on Health Information Technology (CCHIT); and is currently a member of the Performance Measurement Workgroup, Ambulatory Care Quality Alliance (AQA); and the Quality Workgroup, American Health Information Community (AHIC).
Dr. Tuckson has also held other federal appointments, including cabinet level advisory committees on health reform, infant mortality, children's health, violence, and radiation testing.