Pediatrics is sometimes treated as the least important branch of medicine. This kind of makes sense, because children are mostly healthy. Focusing just on health outcomes, however, is terribly short-sighted. As Jason Fletcher and Michael Richards show, chronic diseases that begin in childhood have powerful effects not only on children's adult health, but also on their non-medical development and achievements.
Fletcher and Richards looked at the association between the 'health shock' of getting diabetes in childhood and achievements in schooling and work for more than 15,000 children. They found
effects in several measures of educational attainment, including a high school dropout rate that was six percentage points higher than among young adults without the disease. We also found lower employment and wages: A person with diabetes can conservatively expect to lose more than $160,000 over his or her working life, compared to a peer without the disease.
This is an observational study, so whether diabetes causes these effects is a matter of inference and interpretation. Fletcher and Richards used a data set that included detailed information on the children's family backgrounds, the health of parents, and other diseases that children had; and their estimates include statistical controls for such factors. We cannot necessarily infer that an intervention that prevented diabetes in a child would increase the years of schooling they would achieve, or how much they would earn as adults. But based on these data, it would be worth a shot.