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School-based Health Care

School-based health care is founded on the belief that health and learning and being successful in school are interconnected.

School-based health centers (SBHCs) were first established in the 1970s, and have experienced a rapid and significant rise in numbers since then. Today, there are over 1,900 in 45 states, with more than 60 school health centers in North Carolina alone.

School-based health care is widely considered one of the most cost-effective strategies for delivering health care, including mental health and prevention services, to adolescents – an often hard-to-reach population with many diverse health needs. Services are convenient – located on school campus – affordable and confidential, minimizing many of the barriers to health care access for students, such as scheduling, transportation and financial barriers.

SBHCs offer numerous benefits and potential benefits to students, families, schools and communities including:

  • Providing convenient, age-appropriate, confidential care in a familiar setting to many adolescents, especially males, who may be reluctant to use traditional medical care.
  • Improving access to care for students who may not otherwise receive care elsewhere.
  • Connecting students and their families to primary care practices/medical homes.
  • Improving students’ academic performance and school attendance, and reducing student discipline referrals.
  • Encouraging parental/caregiver participation in their children’s health care.
  • Serving as a resource for the health care needs of adolescents.
  • Minimizing lost classroom time for students and lost work time for parents.
  • Improving follow-up compliance with care.
  • Providing an opportunity for adolescents to seek out or take advantage of services, whereas they may not otherwise in traditional settings.
  • Providing behavioral risk assessments and ongoing preventive strategies, especially through on-site mental health services, in collaboration with school staff
  • Providing schools with a valuable resource during emergencieis/crises with trained medical and mental health staff on-site.
  • Collaborating with schools, local primary care practices, and other community agencies.
  • Reducing overall health care costs.

Want to learn more about school-based health care?

The National Assembly on School-based Health Care provides a wealth of information, including fact sheets on:

Other sources for information on adolescent health and school-based health care include: