Quality education in elementary school is necessary to reinforce early childhood interventions and prevent their positive effects from fading over time. Research also shows that school quality has an impact on both the short– and long–term educational attainment of children, as well as on their health. For example, children who enroll in low–quality schools with limited health resources, safety concerns, and low teacher support are more likely to have poorer physical and mental health.
The developmental and educational opportunities that children have access to in their early years have a lasting impact on their health as adults. The Carolina Abecedarian Project found that the children in the study who participated in a high–quality and comprehensive early childhood education program, including health care and nutritional components, were in better health than those who did not. The study found that, at age 21, the people who participated in the comprehensive early education program exhibited fewer risky health behaviors—for example, they were less likely to binge drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and use illegal drugs. This group also self–reported better health and had a lower number of deaths. Furthermore, by their mid–30s the children who participated in the comprehensive early childhood development and education program had a lower risk for heart disease and associated risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and high cholesterol. These studies show that quality early childhood development and education programs can play a key role in reducing risky health behaviors and preventing or delaying the onset of chronic disease in adulthood.