Date of Defense:
May 6, 2021
Integrated Learning Experience: School-Based Health Centers Schools serve a purpose in Public Health in many ways. Education, food, healthy relationships with caring adults, and a safe space to be during the day, are all important factors that impact a child’s life and their health. Where schools could be even more helpful is in providing medical and mental health care to their students. School-Based Health Centers seek to do this work. Working in tandem with a medical sponsor, all schools in Minnesota are able to provide medical and mental health services to students during the school day, in the school building. Overcoming the barriers of distance, time, access, and financial resources provides students with much needed health resources, particularly students already faced with many barriers due to systemic racism and poverty.
The Minnesota School-Based Health Alliance (MSBHA) provides support and a framework for Minnesota schools to start and maintain a school-based health center. Currently Minneapolis and St. Paul Public High Schools, Rochester High Schools, and other Twin Cities Metro area schools including Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, White Bear Lake, Richfield, and Burnsville all have School-Based Health Centers.3 These school districts are all active partners in the MSBHA and work to improve the health of their students at school. These sites are supported by medical sponsors, have medical providers including doctors and nurse practitioners, nurses and medical assistants, and a robust team of health educators providing students with individual counseling surrounding sexual health, mental health, and nutrition. Medical sponsors are usually can open and operate. These policies and procedures are in compliance with state and federal guidelines, as well as the National School-Based Health Alliance recommendations for best practices, informed by medical and public health standards. MSBHA provides templates and guidance for nearly all of the policies and procedures listed on the factsheet, with the intention of being as helpful and transparent as possible regarding the many aspects of a SBHC. Finally, the SBHC Sustainability factsheet provides insight and guidance based on three primary SBHC Sustainability characteristics: Strong Partnerships, Sound Business Model, and High-Quality Practice. These characteristics are supported primarily by the Sponsoring organization and the MSBHA. Financial funding is vital to the SBHC and comes from multiple sources.
A new SBHC needs to be aware of where to look for funding, how to maintain the funding, and how to help to ensure funding is easier to come by in the future for other new SBHCs. Guidance from the MSBHA helps new sites with this, hoping to help eliminate an intimidating barrier. The MSBHA is a small but mighty entity, working to provide healthcare and health education to Minnesota’s youth. Their mission of health equity is at the forefront of all of their work and guides their intentions for future endeavors. Their use of the “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child” framework1 works in tandem with the life course health development framework used by Maternal and Child Health Public Health workers and academics as I learned at the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health.
SBHC’s also follow Maternal and Child Health theory and practice by addressing “The Health Impact Pyramid ” developed by Thomas Freiden.2 Creating spaces where individual effort to experience health is made less necessary due to societal improvements is key to the SBHC’s mission and vision. In order to improve its public health impact, the Minnesota School-Based Health Alliance should work on outreach. Many school districts and communities could be utilizing a SBHC, but I believe they are not even aware of the possibility, much less the resource that MSBHA could be for them. SHBCs are currently in larger districts and high schools in the state, but I believe they could be very beneficial and effective in smaller school districts and communities, particularly because of the known health disparities in rural Minnesota communities.4 Modes of outreach could be providing information sessions for school nurses and school administrators, setting up meetings with school officials and the medical facility in their district to see about starting a partnerships that could eventually turn into an SBHC, and potentially creating a video or digital tour of a current, operating SBHC to see an example of how a school can function with a health center, beyond their current situation.
1. ASCD. (n.d.). Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/programs/learning-and-health/wscc-model.aspx
2. Fraser, M. R. (2012). Bringing it All Together: Effective Maternal and Child Health Practice as a Means to Improve Public Health. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 17(5), 767–775. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-012-1064-1
3. Minnesota School-Based Health Center Locations. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sbhc4mn.org/locations4Snapshot of Health in Rural Minnesota (Rep.). (2017). Retrieved https://www.health.state.mn.us/facilities/ruralhealth/pubs/docs/2017snapshot.pdf