Educating Managed Care Plans, Hospitals, & County Health Departments About the Benefits of School-Based Health
How do we showcase the work of school-based health centers (SBHCs) to people who have never seen one? Since 2014, we have been reaching out to individual health plans, hospitals, and county health departments to introduce them to the SBHC model. We have also been learning from these stakeholders about their goals and how SBHCs can align with the goals of the health care system.
Through our conversations with health plans, we have found that there are several areas where SBHCs are most likely to grab their attention.
Nutrition & Fitness Programs
The obesity epidemic is a very real concern for health plans who recognize that today’s overweight kids are tomorrow’s diabetics. It is hard for traditional health care providers to impact what kids eat and how they exercise. So health plans seem interested in school-based programs that give them more reach into the daily lives of kids and families.
Asthma is one of the most common and costly chronic diseases of childhood. Many children do not have well-controlled asthma, and health plans are motivated to address the problem to keep kids out of the emergency room. Schools are well-positioned to support health plan goals in a number of ways: (1) through screenings, schools can identify students early who may have asthma, (2) through easy access to health professionals, schools can manage existing asthma conditions so that they do not become serious, and (3) through partnerships with other staff, school health services can support environmental changes that reduce asthma triggers in school and, sometimes, home environments.
Medi-Cal managed care health plans are required to provide health education to enrolled members. What this looks like can vary significantly between health plans. Many health plans have an internal health education department that provides a variety of health education programs to plan members. Other health plans may contract with community providers, like school-based health centers, to provide health education to members. SBHCs already provide health education to members during clinical visits but they also reach outside the clinic walls to implement unique group, classroom, and schoolwide health education interventions.
Patient Engagement & Access
Oftentimes, an SBHC is an entire family’s first exposure to regular health care. SBHCs play an active role in signing up kids and their families for health insurance and encouraging kids to have strong relationships with their providers. SBHCs have been shown to improve access to care by increasing the rates of well-child visits and immunizations.