To illustrate this point, let’s consider children ages 5 to 9 who are at greatest risk of not attending school due to infections and malnutrition. School-based deworming can reduce absenteeism by 25%  and school meals can increase attendance by 8% .
For these reasons, school-based health interventions are sometimes found to have a larger impact on access to schooling and learning than incentive- and instruction-based interventions .
Rebalancing investments in health and education for greatest impact
Presently global investment in both health and education is insufficient and inappropriately targeted to meaningfully improve human capital. Countries are largely directing health investments to children in younger ages, while conversely, education investments are targeted to older children .
What is apparent is that greater investment by the health sector for school-age children and adolescents would enhance education returns, through better learning and attendance, and create an enabling environment for vulnerable children to transition to secondary school.
Similarly, greater education investments targeted to early childhood education can foster soft skill development and school readiness and leverage better health outcomes from a better educated population. After all, children and adolescents need to be healthy and have the necessary educational foundation to enter, adapt and perform in the labor market when transitioning to adulthood.
Investments in human capital have strong returns throughout the crucial development phases during the first 8000 days - from child survival, to early child development, through school age and adolescence. The health and education sectors each have tangible and specific areas of investment that require greater attention to improve human capital outcomes. These include:
- The education sector’s current focus on early childhood development needs to be matched by a focus on early childhood education. Similarly, the focus on primary education should be supported by an equal focus on secondary education, including vocationally-focused curricula, which includes and goes beyond digital literacy.
- The health sector should sustain its investment in the first 1000 days, and at least double its investment during middle childhood and adolescence when children have their most important opportunity to attend school and learn.
- The education and health sectors should coordinate their efforts to maximize synergies; the timing of interventions relative to critical development stages matters.
The Human Capital Index comes at a pivotal point in our global economy. Technology is driving economic change at an unprecedented pace. Multisector programming and coordination can best position populations to respond to these challenges.
Greater investment in health and education across the first 8,000 days is an investment that will pay dividends as countries aim to sustainably address their most pressing development challenges.