Early Childhood Education to Promote Health Equity: A Community Guide Systematic Review

J Public Health Manag Pract. 2016 Sep-Oct;22(5):E1-8. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000378.


Context: Children in low-income and racial and ethnic minority families often experience delays in development by 3 years of age and may benefit from center-based early childhood education.

Design: A meta-analysis on the effects of early childhood education by Kay and Pennucci best met Community Guide criteria and forms the basis of this review.

Results: There were increases in intervention compared with control children in standardized test scores (median = 0.29 SD) and high school graduation (median = 0.20 SD) and decreases in grade retention (median = 0.23 SD) and special education assignment (median = 0.28 SD). There were decreases in crime (median = 0.23 SD) and teen births (median = 0.46 SD) and increases in emotional self-regulation (median = 0.21 SD) and emotional development (median = 0.04 SD). All effects were favorable, but not all were statistically significant. Effects were also long-lasting.

Conclusions: Because many programs are designed to increase enrollment for high-risk students and communities, they are likely to advance health equity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Education / standards
  • Health Equity / standards*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Students / psychology*
  • United States