Funding School Health Services as Students Move from Hospitals to Schools

June 27, 2011

by Rochlle Davis, HSC president & CEO

This week, I read with great interest the letter to the editor in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, submitted by HSC board member Dr. Martha Bergren. The letter was in response to a recent study published in Pediatrics which conducted an important analysis of the resources needed to support children who have been discharged from hospitals, but still need machines to help them breathe. The article found that the number of children requiring long-term assistance with breathing has significantly increased in the last decade and that increased resources are needed to provide care for this group of children.

In her letter to the editor, Dr. Bergren raised the important point that we must consider the impact that this group of children has on the U.S. public education system and the important role that schools can play in providing care to this vulnerable population. Dr. Bergren points out:

“With states drastically decreasing funds for Pre-K – 12 education, it is imperative that funding of school health services be re-examined. As the numbers of children with Complex Chronic Conditions and children who require health services in schools increase at an alarming rate, a sustainable funding solution must be created that ensures the skilled care in the school setting without absorbing greater and greater amounts of tax dollars intended for learning and instruction, the mission of K – 12 education. The cost shifting from the healthcare system to the educational system for children with chronic conditions upon hospital discharge has not been addressed in a meaningful way.”

We are glad that Dr. Bergren submitted this thoughtful letter to the editor and fully support the important role that school health services have in health prevention and promotion, especially for children who suffer from chronic illnesses.

This letter also comes at important time given the recent release of the National Prevention Strategy by the National Prevention Council, a group of 17 federal departments and agencies charged with planning and coordinating prevention efforts around the country. The goal of this strategy is to develop recommendations for “working together to improve the health and quality of life for individuals, families and communities by moving the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.”

With the federal government’s new focus on prevention, we hope that the important issue of funding for school health will be recognized and addressed.

You can find the original article in Pediatrics and read the Dr. Bergren’s full letter to the editor.

You can also read the National Prevention Council's National Prevention Stategy here.