“Medical care patches people up and releases them back out into the social conditions that caused their disease in the first place, but education addresses the root causes of health risks,” said lead researcher, Peter Muennig, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University.

The study was prompted by previous findings that small class sizes increase high school graduation rates, especially among low-income students, and that people with higher levels of education are less likely to need Medicaid or Medicare before age 65. The researchers estimate that reducing class sizes would mean an additional 72,000 to 140,000 students would graduate high school each year, producing net savings of $14 billion to $24 billion.

The researchers constructed a mathematical model using data from Project STAR, a study of 12,000 Tennessee students in kindergarten through third grade that began in 1985. The project comprised 329 classrooms in 46 school districts, assigning students and teachers randomly to classes with either 22 to 25 students or 13 to 17 students.

The researchers acknowledged “some uncertainty” about whether the results of the Tennessee study could be reproduced nationwide or could “produce substantive health benefits,” but said their analysis suggests that reductions in class sizes would save money from the societal perspective. According to their mathematical model, the researchers found that a student graduating from high school after attending smaller classes gains $168,431 in lifetime net revenue compared to a high school dropout who attended regular-sized classes.

MEDICA.de; Source: Health Behavior News Service