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    U.S. Sets New Goals for a Healthier Nation

    Health and Human Services Department Reveals Blueprint to Make Americans Healthier by 2020

    Role of Education

    For the first time the goals include a section identifying social factors that help determine health, such as education.

    A major goal is to increase the percentage of students who graduate from high school with a regular diploma in four years from around 75% to 82% by 2020.

    The move was made in recognition of the fact that higher education is closely linked to better health, Cater Blakey, of the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, tells WebMD.

    Blakey says there is much optimism that the enactment of the national health reform law will help health officials meet the main health care objectives outlined Monday.

    "It has renewed interest and heightened awareness about disease prevention," she says.

    At the presentation Monday, Gail Christopher, DN, who is vice president for health of the children's health research group W.K. Kellogg Foundation, talked about the importance of education on health.

    "When we focus on education we are, in fact, focusing on improving health outcomes," she said. "The question becomes 'How do we close achievement gaps and ensure optimal education for everyone?'"

    She said improving graduation rates starts even before a child is born, by making sure that mothers-to-be have opportunities for prenatal care.

    Christopher said improving young children's opportunities to learn, especially in low-income areas, is key to achieving the education outcome.

    "The possibility of achieving success in school is almost determined by the third grade, so we have to look at the intersection between low income and poverty and education," she said.

    "When so many of our children are being born into low-income families and communities which further compromises their access to education and to situations that appropriately stimulate and motivate them, we know we have some work to do."

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