Health care offered in schools is a critical part of increasing access to excellent health care for all children. And because of the link between student health and achievement, the role of healthcare in schools is crucial. School-based health clinics provide a comprehensive array of services to students from vaccinations and care for chronic conditions to sports physicals and mental health care.
When you think about the nurse’s office in your district, you might not think about the financial benefits of offering excellent student health care.
Hopefully after reading this blog post, that’s the first thing you’ll think of when you think about your school nurse’s office.
Better HealthStudents Stay in ClassDistrict Finances Benefit
Although it’s not a line item in your district budget, there is a cost associated with students missing school.
Illness is one of the top reasons that students miss school, and one article estimates “the total loss of funding associated with student absenteeism each year is $10.7 billion dollars in the US.”
As an example, hand hygiene is a simple improvement that could help keep students in school. Prioritizing health at your district and having a robust health program can go a long way toward that goal.
One district in Texas goes as far as creating reports to see which students are absent on a regular basis due to illness.
Students who are chronically absent are more likely to engage in risky health behaviors, are more likely to have poor health outcomes in adulthood. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, teenage pregnancy is the leading cause of dropouts among adolescent girls.
Great healthcare in schools can help students stay on track to graduate. That’s beneficial for the sake of helping students.
You might have heard one perspective that it’s not the role of the school to offer health care, but to educate. And while on the surface that may seem true, that perspective overlooks an important factor: when students aren’t in the classroom learning, that costs the district more money.
To put it in the simplest terms: students who are healthy are less likely to be absent, and since funding is tied to attendance and enrollment, students who are healthy and present mean more revenue for your district.
How Great Health Support in School Helps the Community
With many districts across the country facing shrinking budgets, access to funds to support school health clinic operations can be a challenge. As you engage in conversations with district leaders and your school board about funding for health clinic operations, you might want to keep the following facts at the ready:
With a robust health program at school, students are less likely to visit an emergency room for care. Students who are uninsured or are eligible for Medicaid are more likely to visit an emergency doctor because they are more likely to encounter more challenges in seeing a regular healthcare provider.
Students with chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes are less likely to need emergency care if their chronic conditions are under control.
Great school health care keeps students in the classroom, which helps reduce health-related grade retention.
Sick students cost districts money, and with higher rates of poor health outcomes later in life, students who go untreated and experience illnesses can cost communities money, too.
Mental Health Support to Keep Kids in School
With the increase in mental health challenges impacting students across the country, school avoidance has become a bigger challenge for districts. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or another diagnosis, it can be incredibly hard for students living with mental illness to attend school. And even if they make it to class, their mental illness can make it hard to be an active participant.
According to the Department of Education, students with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be chronically absent from school than students without disabilities.
Supporting students with mental health resources can make a real difference in keeping students in school. And having visibility into data around students’ health can help health professionals provide better, more personalized support.
What You Can Do
If know you want to amp up your health program to keep students in the classroom, here are a few actions you can take. Take stock of your current health program: where are your biggest gaps? Do you have access to reliable data you can use to understand why students are absent, or if there’s an influx in health-related absences?
Consider whether your staffing model is sufficient for students’ needs. Do students have enough mental health support? Is your district tracking supports for students to view progress over time?
Are providers spending an excessive amount of time keeping up with documentation for compliance? Consider if your providers are being tasked with duties that take them away from supporting students.
Elise is a writer and member of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. A former member of Frontline’s events team, she is passionate about making connections, whether that be in person at events, online via social media or directly in her writing.