Healthy Students, Promising Futures

Healthy Students, Promising Futures

The Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative supports states and school districts in increasing access to school health services.

About the Healthy Students, Promising Futures (HSPF) Learning Collaborative

HSPF brings together state teams committed to increasing access to Medicaid services in schools and promoting safe and supportive school environments. State teams currently include representatives from the state education agency, state Medicaid agency, and two local school districts. Some teams also have other agencies, advocates and public health officials participating.

HSPF is led by Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health. Fifteen state teams currently participate in the learning collaborative representing California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

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Healthy students are better learners

In 2016, with support from Healthy Schools Campaign and Trust for America’s Health, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services established the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative. The Collaborative is based on the recognition that healthy students are better learners, and that a safe and supportive school environment designed to support students’ physical, psychological, cognitive, social and emotional needs is critical to helping them learn and thrive.

This work is more important than ever. Over the past few decades, the prevalence of chronic diseases among schoolchildren has doubled from one-in-eight children to one-in-four. Many of these diseases have a disproportionate impact on low-income African-American and Latinx students. Schools have emerged as important places to address childhood asthma, obesity, mental health and other health issues. Despite the great potential for schools to impact student health, more than half of public schools do not have a full-time school nurse or counselor, and less than five percent of the nation’s students have access to services through a school-based health center. Schools serving low-income students have far fewer health services than schools serving middle- and upper-income students.

Multiple studies show that school nurses reduce absenteeism and that students who have access to mental health supports in school achieve better academically. In addition, studies show access to school nurses and other school health providers can reduce health care costs and improve access to health care.

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Training and technical assistance

Via both virtual and in-person mechanisms, HSPF provides training and technical assistance to support states in implementing policies that span the health and education sectors and require collaboration to implement (e.g., Medicaid free care policy reversal, state Every Student Succeeds Act accountability and report card measures, and increasing legislation and programming related to children’s mental health and school safety).

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Overcoming barriers to expand services

Through this technical assistance and peer learning structure, state teams have successfully identified and overcome barriers to cooperation across state agencies and challenges to implementing new federal flexibilities in their states, including:

  • Formation of new, cross-sector partnerships among state agencies, local school districts, and state/local partner organizations;
  • Expansion of Medicaid services in schools for all Medicaid-eligible students (not just students with a special education plan) by increasing access to health services and providers; and
  • Development of state-level guidance on key issues for the health and education systems, such as data sharing and coordination with managed care organizations.

To learn more about state level efforts to expand Medicaid services in schools, visit http://bit.ly/freecareupdate.

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Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative Resources

Access related resources below, or go to our main Resource Center to access resources across all of our program and policy areas.

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Education Data for Health Systems: Challenges and Opportunities

This brief highlights existing efforts to integrate education data, such as chronic absenteeism, into health and public health accountability systems, describes common barriers and best practices, and suggests key opportunities for further exploration to advance this work.

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Supporting Health and Wellness in ESSA Implementation: State Policy Opportunity

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) transfers significant authority from the federal government to the state level, creating opportunities to support school health and wellness through state policy. This document outlines key opportunities for incorporating health and wellness into ESSA state plans and is intended to support state-level educators in making the most of the opportunities presented by ESSA.

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