Children: Education and Health

Our primary concern as parents is the well-being of our children that begins at home with family nurturing. It also involves providing stewardship of their learning processes and safeguarding their health. Who else shares responsibility for maintaining this? Family involvement powerfully influences a child’s achievement in school, and the school needs to provide access to appropriate learning materials and delivery methods. At best, education is a partnership between parents, school teachers, administrators, and community leaders to provide sustained mutual collaboration and support.  As UNICEF notes, “Every child has the right to learn,” since “education transforms lives.”  Affirming this, Save the Children organization notes that education is the key to “children reaching their full potential in life.”  Through their global work, Save the Children has accomplished significant progress toward fulfillment of their mission as they report that “In 2013 77% of our early education programs around the world met young children’s cognitive (thinking skills), linguistic (language skills), physical and psychosocial (emotional and social) needs.”

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Save the Children Cover

Early childhood education is the foundation that establishes a pattern for acquisition of skills to encourage lifelong learning and progress. Schools traditionally have trained students to pass exams, proceed to the next level, and enter the workforce.  However, to meet the needs for global citizenship in our currently global community, education needs to incorporate promoting respect and understanding for each others’ cultures. The United Nations Global Initiative on Education is to “put every child in school,” because “education is a great driver of social, economic and political progress.”  Not only that, but “As people learn to read, count and reason critically, their prospects for health and prosperity increases exponentially.” The UN’s ultimate education mission is to ensure quality of learning and enhance global citizenship.

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U.N. Global Initiative on Education: Egypt

Health depends on emotional support, nutritious foods, clean water, fresh air, adequate exercise, access to methods for disease prevention, curtailment, and amelioration, and environmental influences.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has a Global Plan of Action for Children’s Health and the Environment that intends to identify and “assess environmental influences and effects on […] children’s health and development.”  This enables the organization to prioritize, plan action, and implement prevention strategies. The WHO mission is based on the commitment to children who “represent the future, and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies.” While many so-called first world or developed nations have a form of partially subsidized health care, universal health care provides for all citizens.  To be effective, that must start with prenatal, postnatal, and maternity as well as infant and child care.

Which Countries Have Universal Health Care?  

The Soviet Union implemented universal health care in 1937; New Zealand created a health care system in a series of steps during 1939-1941; the United Kingdom implemented its universal National Health Service program in 1948; Scandinavian and Nordic countries soon followed suit with Japan following in 1961 and Canadian provinces in 1962-1972; Australia enacted universal health care in 1974 and 1984; European and Asian countries as well as Israel implemented similar universal health care plans in the 1980s-1990s. Many other countries such as Brazil and Cuba have similar universal social health care systems. Later, the United States enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010 commonly known as Obamacare.  According to James Vicini and Jonathan Stempel via their 2012 Reuters report “US Top Court Upholds Healthcare Law in Obama Triumph,” together with the Health Care and

Education Reconciliation Act, the PPACA represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

What Does This Mean for Our Children? 

As the WHO notes, health care is not the sole province of insurance provisions, governmental intervention, and ratified laws.  It also involves governance that means “collaborating with other sectors, including the private sector and civil society, to promote and maintain population health.” Vaccinations and immunizations can prevent and/or ameliorate the severity of infectious and contagious diseases in childhood.  Pre-natal and post-natal care for mothers and infants promotes thriving families and societies.  School programs aim to provide healthful meals for children with free supplements available for the underprivileged.  In an effort to safeguard students’ health and prevent potential epidemics, school systems regulate attendance eligibility based on proof of current vaccination and immunization records.  To support this endeavor, medical facilities offer free immunizations and vaccinations for children, while school nurses coordinate school health programs, oversee the students’ medical records, provide health education for students and parents, and ensure that the school provides adequate exercise and nutritious lunches.  In addition, school counselors offer complementary health support services.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advocates vaccinations and immunizations for children according to a schedule based on relative age ranges.  This schedule is readily available via the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.

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WHO: Universal Health Care for Children

What Are Countries Doing Currently to Provide Universal Health Care for Children?

Besides provisions of the Obama Care / Affordable Care Act of 2010, the US has The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development offers several free booklets.   One of their publications, Adventures in Parenting suggests strategies designed to help children and families stay healthy with a “focus on child and maternal health.”  According to the My Dr. for Australia website’s “Australian health system: how it works,” the Australian health care system, Medicare is supported by a “complex mix of Commonwealth and State funding.”Expanding on this funding theme, Paul Hsieh’s 2014 article for Forbes magazine “What the US Can Learn from the Australian Health Care Debate” contends that the Australian government’s free health care system is experiencing spiraling costs and needs additional funding via such methods as instituting co-pay fees to remain sustainable.  And what is the status of the current health care system in New Zealand? The official New Zealand government website indicates that its “comprehensive health system is built on Kiwis’ inbuilt need to see that everyone gets a ‘fair go’ in life.” The health care is free or low cost to residents of New Zealand thanks to funding based on government subsidies.

As for health care for children in other countries, some Latino and Hispanic countries’ socialized medical systems focus on maternal prenatal and antenatal care as well as care for infants and children.  With regard to the Hispanic country Cuba, the Inter Press Service 2013 article “Cuba Streamlines Public Health System” indicates that governmental provision for public health services is a “constitutional right” for all citizens of Cuba.  Since 2010, major renovations of the country’s hospitals have been under way as well as reorganization of the entire health care system and modernization of facilities. Cuba’s current emphasis includes a focus on gynecological check-ups, maternal services, and child care.  Likewise with regard to the Hispanic country of Brazil as reported in 2012 by Eduardo J. Gómez’s CNN article, “In Brazil, Health Care Is a Right” the citizens of that country support the Sistema Único de Saude (Unified Health System SUS).  Gomez indicates that Brazilians share “an enduring cultural belief and expectation that everyone should contribute to health care and that it is a fundamental right.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s publicly funded universal health care system, known to Canadians as “medicare,” mandates comprehensive “universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay.”  In addition, supplemental free services are available for children including prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, medical equipment such as wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices.  Finally, what is the current status of one of the oldest universal health care systems?  Since its founding in 1948, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has expanded to become the largest publicly funded universal health coverage supplier in the world.   It is funded by the Department of  Health via taxation, and services excepting “some charges, such as prescriptions and optical and dental services” are free at the point of use to any UK resident.

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NHS Egalitarian Structure and Principles

Honor Vallor
Honor emigrated from England to the United States in the nineteen sixties. She has visited and lived in several countries including the British Isles, Spain, and Morocco. She has an M.A. in English from Portland State University and is a career educator as well as contracted writer. She serves on several academic committees including the Professional Ethics Committee for the Marylhurst University Chapter of the Association of American University Professors. In addition, she offers workshops for non-profit centers and public libraries.

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