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Collaborative Effort to Bring Better Health Care to Schools

Sargent College joins School-Based Health Center Awareness Day at State House April 7

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Student participating in a previous School-Based Health Center Awareness Day. Photo courtesy of Eileen O’Keefe

School-based clinics are becoming an important part of the health-care system in Massachusetts, yet there are only about 60 in the entire state. To increase this number, members of the Program in Health Sciences at Sargent College have teamed up with the Massachusetts Coalition of School-Based Health Centers to gain support for the cause.

Eileen O’Keefe, a SAR clinical associate professor and director of the health sciences program, will attend the Fifth Annual School-Based Health Center Awareness Day on Wednesday, April 7, at the Massachusetts State House. It will be a collaborative effort between BU and the coalition. “This is an opportunity to contribute to the community in a much broader way,” she says. “It has been a really successful partnership.”

School-based health centers are more like a doctor’s office than a typical school nurse’s office. They provide developmentally and culturally appropriate health care in various ways: annual checkups, immunizations, sports physicals, nutrition education, dental health services, and mental health services.

What’s more, the funding for these health centers does not come from the school system. “Expanding school-based health centers does not negatively impact the school’s budget,” O’Keefe says. “You bill off of the patient’s insurance like at a doctor’s office.”

Because these health centers are based in schools, students do not miss a substantial amount of class time by leaving school to go to a doctor’s office. “It’s good for education,” she says, “and it’s good for health.”

Several Sargent students are planning to attend as student interns.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about school-based health centers and why they’re important, and hear it from the perspective of people who actually use them or provide services there,” says Kenai Hattori (SAR’10), who will join the gathering at the State House.

During the event, the health sciences students will speak to state legislators who will attend and advocate for the cause. Hattori believes that working with these legislators will be a valuable learning experience.

The topic of this year’s awareness day is based on the Whole Child Campaign, which focuses on keeping children safe, secure, and academically challenged. The coalition will bring in a number of high school student leaders, who will work to make their schools healthier and safer places. In the past, students have spoken at the event about how school-based health centers have impacted their lives.

The event is open to the BU community.

If you would like to join the effort, register for the event here. It will take place in the Great Hall at the Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon St., from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Breakfast and lunch will be served. All are welcome and admission is free.

Tom Vellner can be reached at tvellner@bu.edu; follow him on Twitter @tomgvellner.

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