School Health Partnerships: Building on Success – Part One

April 04, 2014

School health partnerships are key to transforming the country’s health system

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, our healthcare system is transforming from one focused on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention. A key part of transforming the health system to make quality care accessible is supporting the conditions for health in schools across the country.

Through our work with the National Collaborative on Education and Health , HSC has been working to better understand how the health and education sectors are currently working together to support school health. We want to build on the lessons learned from existing work to support new and continued partnerships through the Affordable Care Act.

We’re excited to share examples of some of these innovative partnerships. While there are many excellent partnership models, we’ve selected the following five to highlight:

  1. Non-profit hospitals

  2. Managed care organizations

  3. Local health departments

  4. Academic institutions

  5. Health systems

Below, read more about the first two types of partnerships and check out Monday’s blog to read about the remaining three:

Non-profit Hospitals Meeting their Community Benefit Requirement by Working with Schools

In order to maintain their tax-exempt status, non-profit hospitals are required to provide measurable benefits to the communities they serve. This community benefit requirement, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, provides an important opportunity for schools and hospitals to partner in order to meet the health needs of the children they serve.

For example: In Michigan, Spectrum Health Systems is a non-profit hospital that puts $750,000 of its annual community benefit resources toward school health. This money pays half of the costs of employing nurses in 11 schools and running four school-based health centers. The schools pay for the other half of the costs.

In addition, Presence Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago has identified obesity as a health need in its community and is investing community benefit resources toward enhancing the capacity of nearby schools to address obesity prevention. This includes hosting health fairs, offering nutrition education to parents and increasing student access to fruits and vegetables.

Managed Care Organizations Meeting their Target Goals by Partnering with Schools

School health services can directly support many of the target goals that managed care providers need to meet for children. A number of school districts have become contracted providers with Medicaid managed care providers in their areas, which allows them to seek reimbursement for the services they provide. In addition, a number of managed care organizations have recognized the role schools can play in improving the health of the populations they serve and have either hired a school nurse coordinator for school districts or cover a portion of the salary for a school nurse.

For example: In Madison, Wisc., (a district that has had a long-term contractual relationship with two local managed care organizations since the late 1990s) the managed care organizations pay part of a school nurse’s salary with the specific goal of increasing the number of health screenings received by their Medicaid members.

The partnerships described above highlight valuable lessons for how the health and education sectors can work together to support student health and learning. Through the National Collaborative on Education and Health, we will continue to work to ensure these partnerships are supported and that the role schools can play in meeting the goals of the Affordable Care Act is recognized. You can read more about our effort to re-think the role schools can play in the transformation of our health system in our Health in Mind report.

Check out Part 2 of this blog to learn about three more partnership models.