Recommendation to the Next Administration: School Health Services in Every School

October 25, 2016

The next President of the United States has the opportunity to play a powerful role in creating the conditions of student health in our nation’s schools and giving all children a chance for a healthy, brighter tomorrow. Healthy Schools Campaign has released our recommendations for the next administration on supporting school health. Today, we are featuring the first of these recommendations. We invite you to read HSC’s full set of recommendations and stay tuned for more on the blog in the days ahead.

Healthy Schools Campaign calls on the next administration to ensure that every student has access to health services they need to remain in school and be ready to learn.

Today, one in four American children has a health issue that affects the ability to succeed in the classroom, double the number just 30 years ago. In addition, one in five children experiences a mental or behavioral health disorder such as ADHD, anxiety, depression or drug use each year.

Our nation faces vast health disparities, with low-income students of color facing disproportionately high rates of these conditions. This has implications not only for children’s long-term health but also for their opportunities to learn and succeed at school. For example, student health problems are one of the leading causes of absenteeism and, as a result, can have a significant impact on academic achievement.

Providing access to health services in schools is a proven strategy to address this challenge and support students’ health and learning. This includes services provided by physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists and others. They may work directly for the school or may serve schools through partnerships with local healthcare providers. Such efforts directly support the goals of both the education and health sectors.

Educators know that students who are well enough to attend school and focus in the classroom—not home with an illness, in the ER with an asthma attack or distracted in class by an untreated cavity, for example—are better prepared to learn and succeed. Access to care in school makes that possible for more students.

For the health sector, studies show that healthcare provided in school settings can reduce healthcare costs and improve access to and quality of care. For example, increasing access to school health services has been shown to reduce students’ ER visits, resulting in significant healthcare savings. The passage of the Affordable Care Act has also brought new opportunities for this sector to focus on prevention and community-based care.

The next administration can increase access to school health services by leveraging new opportunities and ensuring ongoing support for existing initiatives. In summary, HSC recommends that the next administration:

  • Establish a National Commission for Advancing School Health Services convened by the Department of Education (ED), Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that would bring education and health policies and practices in alignment to support school health services and set minimum standards for healthcare provision in schools.
  • Provide funding to support the Commission’s work and build the capacity of state and local leaders to increase access to school health services. (In the absence of the creation of a Commission, ED, in collaboration with CMS, should lead this work.)
  • Increase ED’s capacity to support health and wellness by redefining and expanding the role of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) and appointing a Deputy Assistant Secretary to lead the effort to fully integrate health and wellness into ED’s policy and practices.

We invite you to read HSC’s full analysis and recommendations for the next administration.