Melissa Field is the director of policy and communication for the Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care.
Colorado has plenty of reasons to celebrate National School-Based Health Center Awareness Month this February. As part of a 2009 Colorado Health Foundation initiative, two new school-based health centers (SBHCs) opened in 2010 — the Grand Valley Center for Family Learning in Parachute and the Kids' Clinic at Laredo Elementary in Aurora. These new centers bring the total number of SBHCs in Colorado up to 47.
By offering primary and preventive care to underserved children, SBHCs keep at-risk students in the classrooms. Because the centers are located in schools or on school grounds, they let children receive care without demanding that a parent leave work. The centers offer a cost-effective and efficient way to ensure that children lacking access to care receive services most vital to good health.
Having a SBHC housed in a school might prevent more serious health issues for students later in life. Childhood is a critical period for the development of healthy behaviors that continue into adulthood. For instance, obese children between the ages of 10 to 13 years old are 80 percent more likely to be obese when they're adults. SBHCs offer a great way to instill life-long healthy behaviors early on.
A 2009 Colorado Health Foundation initiative allotted $10.8 million for SBHCs. The initiative represents one of the largest foundation contributions focused on expanding school-based health care. In addition to opening two new centers, five SBHCs received implementation grants and six received planning grants in 2010.
A successful school-based health center is the product of its community. Building a center requires an assessment of community needs and collaboration between health care providers, the school district, families and key stakeholders.
The Colorado Association for School-Based Health Care (CASBHC) trained a number of consultants on the Foundation's grant application process. CASBHC offers year-around technical assistance, support and training to those interested in opening a SBHC and to those working to sustain an existing center.
Celebrating school-based health care is a way to honor the efforts of those who have dedicated their careers to keeping Colorado's most vulnerable children healthy.
Know of a school-based health center doing good things in your community? Share your stories in the comment box below. Please note that comments will be open for two weeks from the initial post date. Follow the Foundation's work on Facebook and Twitter.