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How the Health Care Bill Can Improve Literacy

In mid-March, as The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (better known as the health care bill) was getting its final trim for passage. One of the provisions that was lost in the final fights would have created an Early Learning Challenge Fund, money dedicated to improving the health and educational outcomes of children by giving them access to better services between birth and age five.

Seems like a missed opportunity to have a worthwhile program. But Monica Potts, over at The American Prospect, writes that provisions in the passed health care bill will still help in giving young children some of the advantages they need to become better learners.

As an addition to SCHIP, a $1.5 billion fund will allow nurses to visit expecting parents, in order to help prepare them for their birth and to properly care for their newborn. It's indirect, but there's plenty of evidence to suggest that a well-fed, healthier kid will do better in school.

And there's more:

From promoting breast-feeding by requiring employers to provide safe spaces for pumping breast milk, to eliminating lifetime caps on benefits that prevent the sickest children from receiving adequate care, to reducing school absenteeism by ensuring children have better treatment and therefore fewer emergencies -- the health-care reform bill has the potential to make children healthier and, as a result, better learners.

But, the one key measure that Potts seems most intent on knocking home deals with providing vision care for young children and making sure those who need them get glasses. Better vision means better reading. And better reading means increased literacy. Vision care can help identify learning disabilities, as well as helping to determine if perceived learning disabilities are actually eyesight-related problems.

It seems simple, but it could possibly be a big boon to improving reading proficiency and general literacy for future generations. If it works, we'll have a proof-of-principle that little fixes can result in big changes.

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