Peer Health Exchange Announces SBHC Tours

By Anna Burns, Outreach and Engagement Associate, School-Based Health Alliance
January 4, 2016

Peer Health ExchangePeer Health Exchange (PHE) has an elegant solution for encouraging students to seek out services in their SBHC—and it’s already demonstrating success.

We recently spoke with Louisa Brown, Director of Communications for Peer Health Exchange. She explained that PHE’s mission is to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to make healthy decisions. They currently do this by training 2,000 college students to teach a skills-based health curriculum of 13 workshops in low-income, public high schools. All in all, PHE programs in the U.S. have served over 100,000 youth since the organization’s inception in 2003.

Last year, Peer Health Exchange trained its sights on SBHCs in certain U.S. cities. As part of PHE’s comprehensive curriculum, the program provides informative tours of the health center, led by SBHC personnel and assisted by PHE’s trained, college-aged volunteers. These SBHC tours have the following goals, among others: 1) increase student learning, 2) make students feel more comfortable in the SBHC, 3) demonstrate their intentions to use health resources, and, ultimately, 4) ensure that an interested patient actually attends their SBHC within a year of his or her tour.

“We‘ve been thinking about our role in helping high school students use their SBHCs,” Louisa said. “The critical peer relationship piece is unique to PHE, and in our experience, students are much more open to information coming from someone close in age, perhaps being more likely to engage with the SBHC if a young college student makes such a suggestion.”

Their initial results are encouraging. In all three cities where the pilot program was administered (New York City, Washington, DC, and Chicago), 91.5 percent of students who took a tour of their SBHC reported that they planned to visit within a year. In PHE’s controlled study, school staff expressed the belief that tours significantly changed students’ abilities and the intention to access the SBHC. When compared to students from other schools and to PHE students who did not receive SBHC tours, students who participated in the SBHC tours were more likely to know 1) where to get condoms, 2) where to get other contraceptives, and 3) how to access mental health resources.

Susanna Schneider Banks, one of PHE’s SBHC partners and Community Health Organizer for the Montefiore School Health Program in the Bronx, New York, put it this way: “Including tours of our school-based health centers in the Peer Health Exchange curriculum has taught all of our 9th graders about the wide variety of services available to them through the Montefiore School Health Program. Our partnership with PHE has enabled us to ensure that our students not only receive comprehensive health education, but that they are also able to link that information to the medical, mental health, dental, and community health services we offer in our school-based health center. Many students are surprised to learn that these services are available, at no cost to them or their family, while they are at school. One student was shocked when he actually saw our health center, calling it ‘a tiny hospital.’ We are proud that our partnership with PHE has connected more Bronx teenagers to the health services they need and deserve.”

Peer Health Exchange recently announced a partnership with UCSF’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. By joining forces, their intention is to help increase the number of SBHCs that are prepared to provide young people with accurate information and care regarding long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).

Peer Health Exchange currently only has resources for schools with whom they partner directly. However, Louisa says that they are currently exploring new ways to have impact beyond their direct service model.

To learn more about Peer Health Exchange and its work, click here.

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