The movement to put health care where kids are got a shot in the arm when more than 400 school-based health center staff, students, educators and supporters gathered at a statewide conference to learn, share and get re-energized.
The California School Health Centers Association’s conference returned to Sacramento after two years of regional conferences to offer a day of workshops to help the growth and expansion of school-based health centers (SBHCs). The second day was filled with visits to legislative offices to educate policymakers on why SBHCs are an innovative way to make sure that all kids get health care and can do well in school.
“The most valuable part was the integration of education, health and behavioral health,” one attendee said in the evaluation.
Another wrote: “The workshops! They were on important topics and are easily applied in everyday work.”
Added another: “The break out sessions were superb. The plenary was very encouraging.”
Day 1 – Workshops
The opening plenary was at capacity as Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent Dr. John Deasy acknowledged the ballroom full of school nurses, health providers, educators, and other school health advocates for the important work they do every day to provide crucial wrap around services.
Students suffering from the pain of a toothache or dental decay can’t focus in class, Deasy said. School nurses, teachers and school-based health centers play a pivotal role in improving student health and achievement.
He also pointed to LAUSD, where staff and administrators are working to improve student nutrition by improving access to healthy foods in schools and the surrounding communities. And students are helping to make decisions by taste-testing potential new cafeteria foods.
Workshops ranged from funding and staffing oral health services to confidentiality and wellness policies to the role of SBHCs in California’s Health Benefit Exchange and youth leadership and youth-led research. The depth and breadth of workshops resulted in learning and networking opportunities for the variety of people involved in school health services.
Day 2 – School Health Day @ the Capitol
The day packed with conference workshops was followed by a day of action: educating and reaching out to policymakers. CSHC organized 150 youth and adults and sent them to the State Capitol, where teams of students, providers and SBHC supporters visited with policymakers and their staff. The message was clear: prioritize school health!
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, formerly in the State Assembly and a former high school cross-country and fitness coach, rallied the group before the visits with policymakers with an energizing speech and reminded the people about the power of being a constituent.
In all 53 visits to legislative offices on School Health Day @ the Capitol, team members spoke of their personal experience with school health services and suggested to policymakers three ways to support SBHCs: 1) support the health care safety net; 2) support schools; and 3) advance school health through health care reform.
Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (District 7) was so impressed with the team members that he took them on a spontaneous tour of the California Senate chambers.
On the visit to Assemblyman Roger Dickinson’s office (District 8), team members had a productive meeting with the Assemblyman’s Legislative Aide Myriam Bouaziz.
“It was a wonderful experience because I got to showcase the wonderful work we are doing and the difference we are making in students’ lives. Ms. Bouaziz was engaged in the conversation and expressed Assemblyman Dickinson’s passion toward supporting school health services and the expansion of school-based health centers,” a team member wrote in her review of the visit. “I can see why this type of outreach is so important. Because if we don’t tell our elected officials about why they should support school health services, who will?”
And stay tuned: We are planning another statewide conference in 2013 – this time in Southern California.
See more photos from the conference.
See a video recap of the conference.