National Collaborative on Education and Health: Redesigning the System to Support Student Health

August 29, 2014

While schools have always been an important center for providing safety net and emergency care for students, health challenges faced by students are growing more and more complex. Students today grapple with obesity, food insecurity, the management of multiple chronic conditions, and much more. All of this requires a reexamination of the health-related services available within schools — and, of course, how they are financed.

The timing of this reexamination coincides with the transformation of our healthcare system in the United States. It’s shifting from a system focused on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention. New financing arrangements, such as accountable care organizations, push the health system to think about partnerships with those who can offer comprehensive health services.

As the US health system goes through these major changes, the partnership between health and education needs to be redefined. Healthy Schools Campaign is working to do just that.

On August 14 the National Collaborative on Education and Health hosted the first meeting of the Health Systems Working Group, an important step towards identifying strategies for redesigning health delivery systems to meet the health needs of students. The Health Systems Working Group brings together over 25 health and education leaders who will work together over the next four months to identify strategies to increase collaboration between the health and education sectors to support the delivery of school health services and programs.

Some of the key questions this group will address include :

  • How can schools be incorporated into delivery system reforms; other new models of care emerging from the Affordable Care Act; and other innovations being tested for the delivery of physical and mental health services, health promotion and prevention?

  • How can the health care system better support schools in creating the conditions of health for students?

  • What new models of practice are needed in both the health sector and schools to support an integrated delivery of care model?

  • What type of guidance needs to be shared with the health and education sectors to promote collaboration?

At the first meeting of the working group, participants discussed the opportunities presented by the Affordable Care Act that can be used to promote collaboration between the health and education sectors. They also discussed the need for a model that leverages these opportunities. Participants heard from three successful health and education partnerships highlighting strategies for effective partnerships and lessons learned. For example, Sally Freeman from Seton Family of Hospitals, shared the long-standing partnership between Seton and Austin Independent School District that has supported increased access to school health services across the district. Denise Hughes from Nemours shared information about NemoursLink, an innovative partnership between Nemours and Delaware public schools that provides school nurses with secure electronic access to portions of students’ medical records.

The Health Systems Group will build on the lessons learned from these case studies and work to make sure that health and education leaders take advantage of the opportunities presented by our transforming health care system, ensuring that students are health and ready to learn. The working group will also identify federal, state and local policy changes that would incentivize this type of collaboration.

The Health Systems Working Group includes representatives from national organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, National Association of School Nurses, School Based Health Alliance and United Way; federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education; and local health and service providers, including Nemours and Advocate Children’s Hospital. A list of working group members is available. To learn more about the issue of health and wellness metrics in education, read the Health Systems Working Group background paper.

The National Collaborative on Education and Health was launched by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health in February 2014. The Collaborative brings together advocates, policymakers, school stakeholders and funders to identify opportunities for the health and education sectors, individually and together with others, to ensure that all children have the opportunity to be healthy and academically successful, allowing them to reach their full potential as productive members of our communities and our nation. The Collaborative is overseen by a steering committee of more than 20 health and education leaders and is co-chaired by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health.

Special thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Kaiser Permanente for their generous support of the National Collaborative for Education and Health.