The Vision: Forging School Health Connections
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working with school districts, communities and families to create a collaborative approach to school-based and school-linked health care.
In partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Education and other agencies and organizations, many important initiatives have been funded, supported and encouraged to help local schools design their own Comprehensive Coordinated School Health Programs through:
- School Health Services Grants with Designated School Nurse Leaders
- School Based Health Centers
- Comprehensive School Health Manual
- Ongoing Consultation to Schools
- Guidelines and Regulations
- Educational Programs for School Health Personnel
"School health personnel are challenged to move out of the comfort zone of traditional ways of providing services, to master new skills, to cultivate new working relationships, and to seek creative ways of nurturing the health and well-being of our school communities." - Anne Sheetz, Director of School Health Services, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Meeting Today's Student Health Challenges
Many complex health issues can disrupt a student's school performance, from allergies to nutritional disorders to substance abuse to medical emergencies.
The traditional role of school nursing is expanding rapidly to meet the daily demands of various student populations in Massachusetts. School nurses respond to thousands of student visits each day and coordinate a broad range of services which help students receive health care and stay active in school. Today's school nurses:
- Provide daily health services to students who otherwise would not be able to attend school regularly.
- Promote mental and emotional health and well-being.
- Link students and families to primary care, health insurance and other health resources within the community.
- Provide health education and consultation to other school personnel.
"My daughter Alanna has had asthma from a very young age and used to stay home from school because of her medical problems. Our school nurse developed an individual care plan to keep her inhaler at school and supervised her daily medication so that she didn't have to miss a beat in the classroom. It really has made a big difference in helping her keep up with her school work." -- Deborah Berman, Elementary School Parent, North Pembroke, Massachusetts
Making a lifelong impact through health education
Children and teens are empowered to make good health choices when we provide early education and prevention. Health education and promotion can be presented in many ways -- in the classroom, on the ball field, during gym, at lunch time in the cafeteria, and through one-on-one counseling.
Comprehensive school health programs can make a lifelong impact by helping students take good care of themselves today. Health education and school screenings are delivering important health tips and prevention guidelines about issues such as:
- Oral health.
- Nutrition and eating habits.
- Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
- Physical and emotional development and growth.
- Conflict Resolution.
"Young people want to know what to do to stay healthy. By providing solid facts and building skills and habits, they will be prepared to make positive health decisions and avoid unhealthy risks and unsafe behaviors. Good health needs to be practiced. Through comprehensive coordinated school health programs, we can show students how to take practical steps to lead healthy lives." -- Mary Zamorski, RNC, FNP, Nursing Supervisor, Springfield Public Schools
Helping to prevent and treat health problems
Over one million Massachusetts students spend the majority of their day in classrooms and after school activities.
The school environment provides a great opportunity to develop and deliver health services that can help all students stay healthy in order to stay in school.
Comprehensive School Health Programs can be developed to address a number of needs and can include services such as:
- Preventive screenings and evaluations.
- Identification, assessment and management of individual students with special health needs.
- Early intervention, treatment and referrals for students with health risks.
- Promotion of a safe and healthful environment.
"We are successful in helping students quit smoking because they know the whole school community is behind them. Instead of punishing students for getting hooked, we promote ways on how to stop for good. Teachers hand out information cards, our nursing staff conduct 'stop-smoking' sessions and give realistic ways to quit and the school administration is very supportive. Students know they can count on us to help them kick the habit." -- Maureen Saunders, RN, BS, MEd, Nursing Manager, Duxbury Public Schools
Building strong community partnerships
School health programs and activities require the support of many community partners to improve and strengthen opportunities for students to thrive, learn and succeed.
In cities and towns across the state, a wide range of local participants are working together to craft comprehensive school health programs that respond to their school community's needs.
Anyone can help start a comprehensive school health care program or project. Here's a look at who's getting involved:
- Students and Families.
- School Nurses & Physicians.
- Health Educators & Teachers.
- School-Based Health Center Staff.
- School Administrators.
- Guidance Counselors, School Psychologists & Social Workers.
- Primary Care Providers & Clinicians.
- Community Health Providers, Hospitals & Clinics.
- Local Boards of Health.
- Food & Nutrition Services Personnel.
- Physical Education Teachers & Coaches.
Successful Strategies Responding to Local Needs
"We're looking at school health care in a whole new way. In Boston, each school is shaping its own individual plan of action to deliver health services to students before, after and throughout the school day. Whether it's a school nurse linking a student to a local health center or a classroom teacher creating a healthier environment for a child with asthma or a counselor finding mental health services for a troubled teen, the key is coordinated team work at school, at home and in the community." -- Linda Grant, MD, Medical Director, Boston Public Schools
School nurses, educators, health care professionals and community advocates are teaming up to create dynamic, effective services, programs and responses to meet today's student health needs and issues. Comprehensive school health care can play a critical role in enhancing local educational achievement.
A student needs to be healthy to learn to his or her full potential.
For information about how to develop Comprehensive for your community, please contact us at the address below.
This information is provided by the School Health Services within the Department of Public Health.