ST. PAUL, MN (April 15, 2013) – New research shows that there is a strong correlation between the quality, amount, richness, and diversity of educational experience and improved physical and mental health—such as longer life, fewer illnesses, and better personal habits.

These are the findings of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) released today. The study was conducted by Human Impact Partners, a nonprofit research group in Oakland, Calif., and ISAIAH in collaboration with a panel of key health and education experts and stakeholders, racial justice advocates, and a member of the state’s Integration Revenue Task Force. You can download the full report here.

HIA_Integration_Cover_smallThe HIA examined the projected health effects of Minnesota House/Senate Bill HF0247/SF0711, which proposes to reauthorize integration funding and guide how schools use it. The bill aims to address racial integration in Minnesota schools by supporting opportunities for all students to succeed.

Evidence of the connection between integration and health cited by the Health Impact Assessment includes:

  • Children of color who attend integrated schools tend to have higher incomes as adults making it easier to obtain health care when needed.
  • The effects of education on health are passed down through generations, as the educational attainment of adults is connected to the health of their children.
  • The social consequences of low educational attainment include losses in workforce productivity and more crime and thus more victims.
  • A comprehensive approach to integration leads to increased cross-race connection in classrooms, which then results in lower levels of prejudice in children, adolescents, and adults.

True integration is a key component for better education outcomes and is transformative. According to noted civil rights scholar, john powell, “True integration moves beyond desegregation — beyond removing legal barriers and simply placing together students of different races.  It means bringing students together under conditions of equality, emphasizing common goals, and de-emphasizing personal competition… True integration in our schools, then, is transformative rather than assimilative.  That is, while desegregation assimilates minorities into the mainstream, true integration transforms the mainstream.”

“The evidence is very strong,” says Celia Harris, a Project Director at Human Impact Partners. “The benefits of true integration on the health of all children are clearly laid out in the research literature.”

The study found that the pending legislation could be improved and a broader range of programs and strategies could be included to ensure that school districts can achieve true integration. If amended, the bill sets the stage for a more holistic approach that considers not just racial balance but equity.

“HF0247/SF0711 is only one component of building an equitable education system,” says Phyllis Hill, ISAIAH Lead Organizer. “If the bill is passed and other policies that fully support children of color in integrated schools were also to be implemented, educational achievement and cross-racial connection would increase significantly and the health of all of Minnesota’s children would improve.”

Rep. Carlos Mariani, Chairman of the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee and author of HF0247, has endorsed ISAIAH’s work in the HIA, “Creating a holistic public policy framework calls for legislators to draw on different policy subject areas with the goal of producing an overall healthier and stronger society. In that spirit, I enthusiastically embrace the approach offered by ISAIAH’s Health Impact Assessment because it ties together policy objectives and knowledge from different areas of public life.”

Support for the project was provided by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation (Funder).