Schools Are Essential to Improving Health Outcomes
The education system provides healthcare for millions of children across the country, particularly children of color in low-income communities. The COVID-19 pandemic and school closures have revealed in a new way the importance of critical school health services. Numerous studies show that access to school health services improves health and academic outcomes, such as reduced emergency room utilization and chronic absenteeism, particularly for children with chronic health problems.
1 in 4 children has a chronic health issue
One in four U.S. children has a chronic physical or mental health issue that affects their ability to succeed in the classroom—double the national rate from 30 years ago. Rates are even higher for students in underserved communities, particularly students of color. This undermines efforts to close the opportunity gap.
Health professionals increasingly have recognized schools as the ideal setting to achieve many of healthcare providers’ fundamental objectives: early prevention, disease management, reducing per-capita healthcare costs, reducing emergency room usage and improving overall quality of care. Schools also offer an invaluable opportunity to provide primary healthcare treatment to vulnerable and underserved populations.
These factors have made schools the frontline in improving children’s health outcomes. Yet more than half of public schools do not have a full-time school nurse or school counselor, and less than 5 percent of U.S. students have access to services through a school-based health center.
But we can fix that. There are opportunities for schools districts, states, health and education officials and the federal government to increase access to school health services.
For example, a 2014 federal policy change vastly expanded the number of school-based health services that can be reimbursed by Medicaid—but only if states act to make use of it. In addition, local partnerships between health and education systems have been shown to improve care delivery, programmatic evaluations, resulting in better student health outcomes. Healthy Schools Campaign is a national leader in supporting states and school districts in leveraging both of these opportunities.
There are more than 50 million children attending elementary and secondary schools across the United States. Using schools as a resource to provide them with access to healthcare has the potential to help those kids become healthy and productive adults.
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What We’re Doing
Supporting Schools + States and Fostering Collaboration
Healthy Schools Campaign works closely with state policymakers, education officials and educators to help expand health services in school settings.
Expanding Medicaid Capacity
Healthy Schools Campaign provides critical support to states as they work to understand the federal Medicaid policy change; amend their state policies and programs; and evaluate the impact. HSC has created targeted policy recommendations and guides to support everyone working to expand access to school health services, including state and local education agency staff, state Medicaid agencies, school health providers, public health professionals, and advocates.
HSC works to:
- Help policymakers understand how existing laws in their state might limit Medicaid reimbursement for school health, develop strategies to expand school-based Medicaid programs, and implement trainings to leverage the new funding
- Manage the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative, which brings together state teams across the country committed to increasing access to Medicaid services in schools
- Manage the Medicaid Expansion for School Health to provide free training, technical assistance and peer learning opportunities to support Illinois school districts in expanding Medicaid billing for school health services
- Advise state departments of public health and state education agencies on how to assess the leading health issues impacting students in the state to ensure the health services needed to address those issues are Medicaid reimbursable
- Recommend ways that federal agencies can offer support, technical assistance and replicable models to states and school districts in expanding Medicaid programs
- Direct stakeholders how to identify the key health and education decision-makers and build support at the state and local levels
Fostering Cross-sector Partnerships
Healthy Schools Campaign works closely with education, healthcare and public health partners to build and sustain collaborative cross-sector endeavors aimed at improving student health.
HSC does this by:
- Advising local and regional medical providers on how to partner with schools to create coordinated approaches to improving student health
- Fostering cooperation between state health departments and state educational agencies to develop better school-based health strategies and data sharing
- Leveraging partnerships in efforts to persuade state officials to open additional funding streams for school health
- Convening the Chicago School Health Access Collaborative in partnership with the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago to bring together health providers and payers, Chicago public schools officials, and advocacy organizations to help coordinate care, alleviate barriers to cooperation, facilitate data sharing, and share best practices
What You Can Do
Your voice matters in urging national, state and school leaders to prioritize the link between learning and health and increase access to school health services. We invite you to learn more and lend your voice to the dialogue about school health services:
- Find out more about the Healthy Students, Promising Futures national learning collaborative
- Download our Schools Are Key to Improving Children’s Health brief, which offers an easy-to-understand but comprehensive look at the opportunity to expand school health services.
- Connect with us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@healthyschools)
As a nonprofit organization, we rely on support from people like you so we can continue to make schools healthier places where all children can learn and thrive. Your gift—large or small—will make a meaningful difference.
School Health Services Resources
Expanding school-based health services can improve both health and education outcomes. The following policy briefs explain how to increase access to these services using available federal funds.
Visit the main Resource Center for additional materials for states, school districts and health professionals.