Tianna Taylor visits with nurses Melissa McCray (left) and Felicia Pleasant at the school-based health center.
Michael Allison, principal of South Avondale Elementary School, is determined to give every student the opportunity to be successful − and that means keeping them healthy and in school as much as possible.
“My focus is academic, student achievement,’’ says Allison. “For our students to have that, I lean on Cincinnati Children’s to get the appropriate healthcare into the building.”
Cincinnati Children’s took over the school-based health center at South Avondale in 2013. Since then, the hospital has expanded the healthcare services available to the school’s students, as well as to children across Avondale.
Cincinnati Children’s operates school-based health clinics in two other locations: Rockdale Academy and Hughes High School.
Breaking Down Barriers to Care
The children who attend South Avondale Elementary School live in one of Cincinnati’s poorest neighborhoods. One in three Avondale families live below the federal poverty line; 99.3 percent of the school’s students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. All too often, children from low-income families do not receive regular, preventive healthcare services. There may be a shortage of healthcare providers in their neighborhood. Their families may lack transportation to get to the doctor’s office. Or they may not be able to find a doctor who accepts patients insured through Medicaid, because of low reimbursement.
The school-based health center removes these significant barriers. Even after they leave South Avondale School, graduates can continue to return for healthcare visits, and in fact, Cincinnati Children’s has opened the center’s services to all children in the neighborhood, from birth through age 18.
Better Health and Academic Performance
Since taking over the health center, Cincinnati Children’s has increased its staff, so that high-quality services now are available daily. In addition to the school nurse (provided by the Cincinnati Health Department), Cincinnati Children’s provides a health technician and a nurse practitioner on site five days a week. Thanks to on-site care, the school has achieved 100 percent compliance for student immunizations.
Another health benefit is that students with asthma are receiving the support they need to gain better control of their disease. Asthma is the most common chronic condition of childhood, and is particularly prevalent in low-income neighborhoods. At South Avondale School, teachers and staff have been trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of asthma; parents have been offered education to help them manage their child’s condition at home; and students with asthma are scheduled to see the nurse practitioner every three months, or if necessary, are connected to Cincinnati Children’s Asthma Center.
Access to care is making a difference in the students’ academic performance. Since 2013, the school has seen a 7.5 percent improvement in overall scores on standardized tests.
“A lot of that,’’ Allison notes, “has to do with kids not missing days due to sickness or lack of proper medical care.”
A school and hospital are very different places, with different missions, but in the school-based health center, as well as in the broader partnership between Cincinnati Children’s and our community’s schools, the two missions converge.