Health + Education = Opportunity

Posted April, 30 2015 by Amanda

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Guest Post: Andrew Leonard, Senior Health Policy Associate, Children’s Defense Fund-NY

Even with the expansion of affordable coverage to over two million New Yorkers, work remains to eliminate persistent health disparities across economic, racial and ethnic lines.

As advocates and consumers, we work to foster a New York where children are not just insured, but healthy and happy.  We believe that coverage must lead to care, and care must lead to health and wellness for all New York children.

One of the most promising models for connecting children and families to care involves the delivery of health care services in schools.  While schools are primarily educational institutions, they are uniquely positioned to be effective health care access points.  Schools are a gathering place for practically all children and offer a comfortable space in which students can receive primary, dental and behavioral health care services that may be hard to find in their own communities.

In recent years, schools have swiftly developed the capacity to provide preventive and primary care services along with robust chronic disease management, all while keeping a child from missing precious academic seat time. School health services can include health clinics adjacent to classrooms, nurses performing complex medication management, and much more.

Schools are particularly adept health care access points for immigrant children.  For families who are new to the United States and lack connectivity to existing health care providers, schools can facilitate enrollment in an affordable health plan and provide immigrant children with their first contact to essential health services in the US.  School-based mental health care fosters a space in which immigrant children can receive needed services as they go through the process of adjusting to a new culture and, often times, a new family dynamic.  Schools have played a tremendously important health care role for the nearly 6,000 unaccompanied immigrant children that arrived in New York State in 2014 after escaping violence and economic inopportunity in Central America.

School-based health clinics are also effective vehicles for eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in the communities that they serve. In New York State, approximately 25% of these clinics serve communities where more than one-third of the population lives below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level.  Seventy-nine percent of students in schools with centers are non-white with more than 30% identified as Black or African-American.

With such an ability to provide services, schools must be considered an integral player in the larger children’s health infrastructure.  That is why we at The Children’s Defense Fund – New York are excited about our new report on school health in New York City: Health + Education = Opportunity: An Equation that Works.  The report, made possible with financial support from the Altman Foundation, describes the city’s current school health system and explores ways to better expand this care.

CDF-NY is hosting an event on Friday, May 15th called, The Winning Equation: A Panel Discussion on the Role of Healthcare Services in NYC Schools, to further dive into this topic. Please, join us if you can! Click here for more info.

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