New study links school-based health centers to reduced risky behaviors among youth
A new study released by School Health Connection (SHC), an affiliated program of the Louisiana Public Health Institute, suggests that adolescents with access to school-based health centers (SBHC) not only receive quality health services, but they may also be less likely to engage in behaviors that put their health at risk, including drug use, risky sexual activity, violence, smoking, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.
The SHC report, School Based Health Centers are Making a Difference: An Evaluation Study of School-Based Health Centers in Orleans Parish, compared survey responses from public high school students with and without access to a school-based health center and provides strong evidence that SBHCs are making a positive difference in the clinical, behavioral and overall health of adolescents.
Key Findings from the Report
When compared to students without access to a SBHC, students with access to SBHCs were:
• more likely to have seen a behavioral health counselor.
• more likely to see a mental health specialist if they had suicidal tendencies.
• less likely to engage in high risk behaviors including substance use, sexual behaviors, violent behaviors, smoking, unhealthy dietary behaviors and physical inactivity.
• less likely to visit an emergency room.
• more likely to be physically active and actively try to reduce their weight if they were obese.
• more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes.
While the report shows clear benefits associated with care provided by SBHCs, it also highlights the value of a comprehensive, coordinated school health system supported by sustained and secure funding for SBHCs as a part of the state’s annual Medicaid and budget planning.
“The report provides strong evidence that school-based health centers help improve student health in general while serving as an effective and necessary medical care model for underserved children and teens,” says Marsha Broussard, Director of the School Health Connection program. “The growing body of evidence regarding the overall benefits of SBHCs is further underscored by the recognition and inclusion of SBHCs in the House and Senate versions of the National Health Care Reform Bill. In line with national health reform outcomes, it is our hope that Louisiana legislators will work to cut through the red tape that keeps existing SBHCs underfunded and unable to realize their full impact on student health.”
School-based health centers provide greater access to primary and preventive care services to students, including those who are uninsured, underinsured or who may not have access to other healthcare facilities or care. Services offered by school-based health clinics range from comprehensive and sports physicals, immunizations, behavioral health screenings, diagnosis and treatment of clinical symptoms and conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and more.
Currently, 11 schools in Metro New Orleans have an operating school-based health center, while three additional schools should be up and running soon.
“Whether it’s simply treating a common illness or recognizing a child dealing with the silent crisis of anxiety and depression, school-based health centers provide the necessary care to ensure that our kids stay healthy and continue learning,” said Dr. Michaela King, pediatrician and practicing physician at O’Perry Walker high school. “We’ve seen everything from the flu to an undiagnosed congenital heart condition, and through our working relationships with external healthcare providers, we are able to get students the specialized care they need.”
“Our school-based health center has been an invaluable resource for our students,” said Alex Hochron, Health Sciences Academy Principal at Walter L. Cohen High School. “Having a health center on school grounds means healthier students and less time out of the classroom. I don’t want to imagine where our students would be without it.”
A copy of the full report and executive summary are available for download at http://lphi.org/home2/section/2-158/announcement-archive/view/141/