How education leads to better health

In 2008, 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved if all mothers had secondary education, according to the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report. That’s just one of the many health benefits of maternal education that we have underlined in EFA Global Monitoring Reports. To mark World Health Day, April 7, here are some others that we have highlighted in blog posts, infographics and reports:

Educated mothers know more about HIV. As we highlighted on World AIDS Day 2011, about 1,000 children are infected with HIV every day, almost all of them during their mother’s pregnancy, during childbirth or when they are being breastfed. These infections could be avoided if mothers knew more about how HIV is transmitted. In fact, women with post-primary education are five times more likely than illiterate women to be educated about HIV and AIDS.

Maternal education increases antenatal care. Women with education are far more likely to immunize their children and seek antenatal care. As our Education Counts booklet pointed out, in Indonesia child vaccination rates are 19% when mothers have no education. This increases to 60% when mothers have at least a secondary school education.

Children of educated mothers are more likely to be born under safe conditions. In Burkina Faso, mothers with secondary education are twice as likely to give birth in health facilities as those with no education.

Children of educated mothers are less likely to be stunted or underweight because of malnutrition, as the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report pointed out.

It is important in itself that children are healthy. But healthy children are also important for reaching the Education for All goals. Children need healthy bodies and minds to get the most out of school. Malnutrition and other health problems can irrevocably damage a child’s learning abilities, leading to problems such as late enrolment, grade repetition and early dropout, according to the 2011 Global Monitoring Report.



  1. What is the tipping poinb in a girl’s education experience where she moves from a status of ‘uneducated’ to a status of ‘educated’ in relation to her health related behaviour? What is is about secondary school that makes the difference?

  2. Dear GMR Report,

    I am very surprised that you do not mention the first class research on the failure of HIV-AIDS education prevention programmes that has been undertaken by Stephanie Dolata at UNESCO’s IIEP in Paris.

    Stephanie has shown in research covering 50,000 pupils across 15 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa that a massive majority of Grade 6 children lack the basic knowledge required about HIV-AIDS that is required to protect and promote their health.

    This extremely important research was undertaken within UNESCO – about 2 km from the GMR offices.

    So why not make use of it?

    Professor Kenneth N. Ross
    Melbourne University Graduate School of Education

  3. Thanks for highlighting this important evidence, Professor Ross. Indeed, it’s something that we’ve been looking closely at, and will be presenting in some detail in the 2012 Global Monitoring Report, in a policy focus looking at the role of life skills education in preventing HIV and AIDS. In the meantime, readers can take a look at SACMEQ’s research on this at

  4. Good question, Nora – one we hope to address in th 2012 Report on learning and teaching for sustaining development.

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