School Health Centers

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School-Based Health Centers Serve More Than Just Students

By Chris Richard

At the Manual Arts High School Wellness Center in Los Angeles, pediatric nurse practitioner Jennie Lien gives 15-month-old Andrew Baptist a medical examination. Andrew's great-grandmother, Yvonne Lee (right) says Andrew's entire family relies on the center for medical care.(Photo/Chris Richard)

At the Manual Arts High School Wellness Center in Los Angeles, pediatric nurse practitioner Jennie Lien gives 15-month-old Andrew Baptist a medical examination. Andrew’s great-grandmother, Yvonne Lee (right) says Andrew’s entire family relies on the center for medical care.(Photo/Chris Richard)

When Compton’s Dominguez High School celebrated the opening of a new campus wellness center last month, it was a timeless moment.

The marching band blared and thundered. Drill teams members pranced and whirled, just as they’ve been dancing and high-kicking on high school campuses for generations.

But the scene in the wellness center itself offered a glimpse of what the future could be for school medical services in California.

There was a student in for routine blood work. In the next cubicle, a mother had brought her young son, who had the flu. And neighborhood resident Jonetta Stewart, 76, had come seeking relief from frequent vertigo and headaches.

Physician’s assistant Rachel Damicali checked Stewart’s blood pressure. It was very high.

Some campus-based wellness centers offer free and low-cost services not just to students, but to entire neighborhoods, to people of any age.
Dimacali says she sees a lot of variety in her fast-paced days.

“My last patient was a 4-year-old kid, and now I’m seeing Jonetta for her blood pressure management,” she said. “So, we see a whole range: from chronic disease to urgent care visits to just physical exams.”

Just in time for the implementation of President Obama’s health care overhaul coming Jan. 1, a handful of California schools are starting to open campus-based wellness centers like the one at Dominguez, offering free and low-cost services not just to students, but to entire neighborhoods, to people of any age. Continue reading

Schools Struggle to Provide Dental Health Safety Net

Dental disease at the intersection of school performance and health for thousands of California children

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource Today

Students learn how to care for their teeth and receive preventive care at a dental clinic at James Madison Middle School in Oakland. (Photo/Alameda County Public Health Department)

Students learn how to care for their teeth and receive preventive care at a dental clinic at James Madison Middle School in Oakland. (Photo/Alameda County Public Health Department)

As California educators grapple with boosting student achievement across economic lines, the teeth of poor children are holding them back.

Hundreds of thousands of children suffering from dental disease, some with teeth rotted to the gum line, are presenting California school districts with a widespread public health problem.

Increasingly, dental health advocates are looking to school districts to help solve the crisis. Innovative oral health care projects have been launched in school districts around the state that provide students with no-cost dental screening or treatment. Insurance companies are billed whenever possible.

Dental disease is at “epidemic” levels among California children, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, and low-income children are disproportionately affected. They are 12 times more likely to miss school because of dental problems than children from higher-income families.

Students with toothaches were almost four times as likely to have a lower grade point average than students with healthy teeth.
“The issue is huge,” said Gordon Jackson, director of the state Department of Education’s division which oversees health, counseling and other support programs provided at schools. “Tooth decay remains one of the most chronic diseases for children and adolescents. As we’re having the conversation about California’s future and student academic achievement, we have to have a conversation about oral health as well.”

But many districts lack the resources, or balk at being asked to provide dental care on top of a rigorous curriculum.

“It’s a great idea to bring universal prevention programs of all types, including dental, to schools,” said Kimberly Uyeda, director of student medical services for the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Whether there’s enough time in the day is another question.” Continue reading

On-Campus Clinics, a Safety Net for Neighborhood Children

By Marnette Federis

School Nurse Gail McLaurin treats a student for asthma at Central Elementary's on-campus Health and Wellness Center. (Marnette Federis/KQED)School Nurse Gail McLaurin treats a student for asthma at Central Elementary's on-campus Health and Wellness Center. (Marnette Federis/KQED)

San Diego School Nurse Gail McLaurin treats a student for asthma at Central Elementary’s on-campus Health and Wellness Center. (Marnette Federis/KQED)

Fourteen-year-old Andrea Vizcarra visited her San Diego middle school’s health center because of a bad cough. But the nurse she saw didn’t stop there. Vizcarra learned she also had high blood pressure.

Then Vizcarra got information and plenty of it. She says after talking with the nurse, she began eating more vegetables and fruits and looked into physical activities, such as running on a treadmill and boxing, so that she can avoid getting sick later in life.

“I don’t want to have a health problem,” she said, “when I can prevent it right now.”

Vizcarra’s visit took place at Monroe Clark Middle School’s Health and Wellness Center, part of a network of K-12 on-campus clinics in San Diego that aims to make primary and preventive services accessible to children.

The network of centers grew out of a partnership between The California Endowment, Price Charities and two well-established community clinics: La Maestra Community Health Centers and Mid-City Community Clinic. Continue reading

School Health Centers Get Final Health Reform Grants

By Kelley Weiss, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Federal grants totaling $500,000 will fund new school clinics in Petaluma, among many others in California. (momboleum/Flickr)

Federal grants totaling $500,000 will fund new school clinics in Petaluma, among many others in California. (momboleum/Flickr)

The last influx of federal funds to boost California’s school health centers came just before the New Year.

Through the Affordable Care Act 31 California school health centers received more than $14 million in December.

This final round of grants brought California’s total federal funding to more than $30 million since 2011, the most of any state.

School-based health centers, which are usually on or adjacent to schools in low- income areas, offer students – and sometimes community members – free primary care. Several also have dental clinics and more than half provide mental health services.

Serena Clayton is the executive director of the California School Health Centers Association. She says the federal money has gone to 70 school health centers across the state to make it easier for thousands of children to access health care.

She says certain areas will particularly benefit. Clayton says Petaluma, for example, did not have any school health centers. Now, with its recently announced $500,000 federal grant, new clinics will open at Petaluma high schools. Continue reading