I read recently that we now have another risk factor for early death. Some may guess obesity. Others smoking.

While these are causes of shorter life, another risk factor is recognized now as just as important – a lack of education.

The National Bureau of Economic Research finds that an additional four years of education lowers five-year mortality by 1.8 percentage points; it also reduces the risk of heart disease by 2.16 percentage points, and the risk of diabetes by 1.3 percentage points.

Not only does low education predict less long lives, but also less economic health.

Data from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study (NLMS) find that one more year of education increases life expectancy by 0.6 years. Assuming that a year of health is worth $75,000 - a relatively conservative value - this translates into about $44,000 in present value. These rough calculations suggest that the health returns to education increase the total returns to education by at least 15 percent, and perhaps by as much as 55 percent.

This is a significant issue for West Virginians.

West Virginia ranked 46th in education in the United States according to the 2014 Kids Count Data Report, and only about 55% of West Virginia students graduate from high school.

This is too low.

We think the new model for health is education, jobs and health.

Education leads to jobs that lead to opportunities and hope. Hope leads to focusing and being able to afford the things that help support long and happy lives, which facilitates health.

This realization adds opportunity for the universities and technical colleges of West Virginia – by helping educate our citizens, we are also driving health – economically and medically.

This gets back to the core of medicine, or doctor, which means teacher.

Our new understanding on the benefits of teaching/education on health opens another interpretation.

Instead of doctor meaning teacher, perhaps the teacher is the doctor.