One-third of Spokane Public School students were dropping out in 2006. Many students who started college never got a technical certificate or a two-year or four-year degree.
To empower young people and expand educational opportunities to improve health, Spokane County is transforming its approach to student success. County leaders—including school officials, local universities, the business community and other partners—responded with a series of innovative steps, including full-day kindergarten; skill-building training sessions for young students; a real-time early-warning system to monitor student attendance and grades; and targeted dropout prevention programs designed to be supportive rather than focusing on punishment.
The plan is working—and the results will continue to pay dividends.
“There are so many linkages between health and education,” says Lyndia Wilson, Division Director at Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD). “Individuals who have more education are more likely to make better decisions about tobacco and alcohol, sexual activity and other risky behaviors. At the same time, better education makes you eligible for better-paying jobs that have health insurance, wellness programs, and other benefits.”
Other health efforts in Spokane County build on education achievements by empowering youth and fostering youth advocacy to enact healthy changes in the community. A Neighborhoods Matter initiative trains youth advocates who successfully lobbied the Spokane City Council for the bulldozing of a drug house, zoning limits on junk food advertising, and preserving local public library hours. As a result of complementary efforts, a one-tenth cent sales tax now supports community-based mental health and criminal justice services.
By complementing the laser focus on improving graduation rates with these other initiatives to address the root causes of poor health, community partners are making a positive impact on the ability of every child to succeed.