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Academic Success Starts With Healthy Students

HOUSTON, TX (April19, 2015)

Success in school starts with healthy learners. Health related factors such as hunger and chronic illness can lead to poor school performance. In fact, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity have been linked to poor grades, test scores and lower educational achievement.

One way the problem is being addressed in our community is through School-Based Health Centers. Recent studies show more than one million Texas children under the age of 18 have no health insurance. The Health Centers for Schools provide a place for uninsured and underinsured children to get nutritional, mental health, medical and dental care.

Right now Memorial Hermann Health System operates 10 Health Centers for Schools operating in five school districts in the Houston metro area. These Health Centers for Schools can provide care to more than 65,000 students who might not otherwise have access to it.

In Fort Bend County, the Lamar Health Center and the Terry Health Center serve 19 schools in Lamar Consolidated ISD.

The Health Centers for Schools program is designed to serve as a medical home for uninsured children and a secondary access point for insured children with the primary goal of providing increased access to health care.

Clinic services include well-child and sports physicals, immunizations, care for chronic diseases like asthma, obesity and high cholesterol, illness and injury visits, mental health therapy and social service referrals, nutritional guidance as well as special care to meet student needs.

Mobile dental vans offer periodic oral examinations, diagnostic x-rays, fluoride treatments, oral hygiene instructions, sealants, composite fillings, extractions, crowns and pulpotomies.

“The idea behind the program is to break down barriers to health care,” says Deborah Ganelin, director, Community Benefit Corporation for Memorial Hermann Health System. “For many of the students who access our clinics those barriers include low family income, lack of knowledge of available health care, lack of transportation and parents’ inability to take time away from their jobs.”

Of the children being served by the clinics, 93% are on the free/reduced lunch program, 34% have limited English proficiency and 44% of the students served are without any kind of health insurance coverage.

The clinics are already making a difference in their community. Grade point averages are going up and absenteeism is going down. Of the students served by a clinic visit, 92% are able to return to class the same day.

Healthcare access to the medically disadvantaged is a growing concern. School-based healthcare is one way to address the issue for our children

Each clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner/physician assistant, LVN, licensed clinical social worker and receptionist. Medical oversight is provided by a family practitioner. Two registered dietitians and community health workers rotate among the centers and provide students in need with social services. Mobile dental vans also operate among the clinics which are open year round, Monday through Friday, during school hours.