healthFebruary is National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month. The School-Based Health Alliance is inviting States across the country to share success stories on how School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) have proven to be beneficial for providing children comprehensive health care services.  In honor of the month, I want to highlight the history of school-based health and how it can improve the health of Kentucky’s children.

The idea of school-based health is not new. In fact, reports show that it originated in the 1900s to address widespread public health challenges of communicable diseases including measles, tuberculosis, whooping cough and scarlet fever.  Schools saw high student absenteeism due to those illnesses as well as a lack of an effective way to treat and control for it. The only method of prevention used at the time was to isolate sick children by sending them home; however, schools soon realized this did not put a halt to the spread of infectious disease. In 1902 New York City’s Board of health appointed the nation’s first “school nurse,” Lina Rogers,  to provide health services to treat and provide care for contagious children in Manhattan, New York. Not only did this help keep children from missing school, but it also led to home visits by nurses to teach parents about health education.

According to School-Based Health Alliance’s 2010-2011 Census report, there are more than 1,930 SBHCs nationwide.  States like Massachusetts have successfully implemented coordinated school-based health programs to meet the health needs of students, families and personnel and in turn support kids’ growth, development and educational achievement. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 Kids Count Data Book report on state trends in child well-being shows Massachusetts as ranking 1st place in children’s education and 2nd place in both children’s overall health and child well-being. Healthy kids learn better.

Thousands of newly insured children and their families are able to get the health care they need as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), however, states must figure out how to meet the capacity of treating many more Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2011 News Release briefly outlines how the ACA supports SBHCs as an option to ensure convenient access to primary and preventive care for children in an environment where they spend the majority of their time. Using schools to deliver health services to children can be a cost-effective and efficient solution.

Research shows that SBHCs have made positive impacts in providing various preventive care services as well as helping children manage chronic illnesses which both contributed to improving academic performance.

SBHCs originated as a way to meet the needs of public health demands and evolved into a model that is suitable for addressing the needs of children and youth, especially vulnerable populations who may face barriers to access care. SBHCs now provide convenient, accessible, and comprehensive care to vulnerable children nationwide.  In doing so, it removes the barriers of transportation and scheduling hassles related to appointments. Massachusetts is great example of the benefits of offering integrated health care in schools. The model is proven to improve overall wellbeing of children.

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