The number of school-based health programs continues to grow because the need is great and impact is exponential.
All children deserve access to top-tier health care. School-based health care is a powerful tool for achieving health equity among children who unfairly experience disparities in outcomes because of their race, ethnicity, or family income. It is also an idea quickly gaining traction throughout the country: deliver critically needed services like medical, behavioral, dental and vision care to students, at schools. Parents do not have to take time off work (which employers appreciate) and students do not have to travel to see their doctor or miss class. It is a win-win for the community, for the children, and for our future.
Throughout Missouri, academic institutions, school districts, community physicians, clinics, parents and many others have come together to bring these programs to more children. Although some challenges are universal, all school-based health programs face their own specific barriers and share a goal: to bring high quality health care to children across the state. The Show-Me School-Based Health Alliance of Missouri incorporated in November 2018 to support, connect, and help other Missouri-based programs learn from one another.
Prior to the development of The Alliance, two efforts were focused on increasing and sustaining school-based health programs, Health Equity Works (formerly For the Sake of All), Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri School Boards’ Association. For roughly two years, each organization convened stakeholders to discuss school-based health centers and explore in detail how additional school-based health care programs could be implemented to address the physical and behavioral health needs of students in rural and urban areas alike. As these groups accomplished their individual goals, a greater interest in school-based health programs developed across the state, and it became apparent an independent organization would be useful in supporting school-based health program sustainability and continued growth.
Therefore, leaders from across the state joined together in February 2018 to discuss the formation of such an organization. The group determined that the appropriate next step would be to become an affiliate of the national School-Based Health Alliance. The national School-Based Health Alliance is a non-profit organization for school-based health care and has been working to improve the health of children and youth since 1995. As an affiliate, The Alliance would gain access to national expertise and resources.
The Data is Definitive
Impact on Health Outcomes
- School-based health programs increase access to health care.
- School-based health program users are likely to use primary care — both medical and behavioral health — more consistently.
- School-based health program users are more likely to have yearly dental and medical check-ups.
- School-based health program users are less likely to go to the emergency room or be hospitalized.
Impact on Academic Performance
- Research shows that school-based health programs have a positive impact on absences, dropout rates, disciplinary problems, and other academic outcomes.
- Students with access to school-based mental health services improve their grades more quickly than their peers.
- States with school-based health programs that serve as Medicaid providers have higher student achievement results.
Impact on Health Care Costs
- Research shows that investments in school-based health programs generate savings through reduced use of high cost services, thereby increasing access without increasing overall Medicaid expenditures.
- Studies have also found that school-based health programs reduce inappropriate emergency room use, inpatient, drug, and emergency department use, and hospitalization among children with asthma.
- School-based immunization initiatives prevent disease and can also save money for society.