Health Ratings and School-based Health Centers

Health ratings? School-based health centers? How are they related and why are they important? Adolescent and child health ratings can help school-based health centers (SBHCs) understand the root of the health issues they often tackle. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children Now, California ranks 41st among the U.S. for children’s overall well-being and 23rd for children’s overall health.

The overall child well-being ranking combines data from four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.  The child health domain includes four measurements, two of which SBHCs are especially well suited to help improve: alcohol and drug use and lack of health insurance.  According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “2012 Kids Count Data Book,” overall the US has decreased the percent of adolescent alcohol and drug use over the past decade.  Despite this, California ranks 25th among the US in the percentage of adolescents ages 12 to 17 abusing alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drug abuse is associated with increased risky sexual activity and decreased academic performance.  In addition, alcohol and drug abuse is associated with increased risk for dropping out of school.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation also found that overall the US had a 20 percent increase in children covered by health insurance from the year 2000 to 2008. However, in California nearly one in ten children still lack health insurance. Children without health insurance are less likely to have a regular health care provider and to receive care when they need it. Uninsured children are also at greater risk for hospitalization. SBHCs can help reduce alcohol and drug use as well as reduce barriers to health care due to lack of insurance.  Through medical services, health education, mental health services, and reproductive health services these easy-to-access, youth-friendly health centers accept all students regardless of their insurance status.  SBHCs can connect adolescents with a regular health care provider, which increases the adolescents’ likelihood of having a regular provider when they are older.  By targeting efforts on issues like alcohol and drug use and/or health care for the uninsured, SBHCs can initiate improvements to the health and well-being of adolescents that can last into adulthood.