Consent Conundrum: How One Convention Panel Changed the Conversation on Consent

By Kate Schechter, School-Based Health Alliance Program Manager, School Oral Health Learning Collaborative Network Project

The School-Based Health Alliance’s National School-Based Health Care Convention on June 18-21, was a smashing success—with a record-setting attendance of 950. Long Beach provided a stunning backdrop, the plenary sessions were inspiring, and we even lucked out with beautiful weather! On the third day of the convention, three members of a learning community presented to a packed room. Their topic? Tested strategies to increase consent rates for health services in schools.

The kicker? All of the presenters worked in the field of school oral health services. But instead of only catering to their oral health peers, their ideas around increasing consent rates proved to be transformative for school-based primary health providers as well. By the end of the presentation, audience members were sharing their own innovative strategies to increase consent rates in their health programs!

Pictured (left to right): Elizabeth Metz, Kim Bartolomucci, and Frances Walsh


The presenters—Elizabeth Metz of Las Vegas’ Future Smiles, Kim Bartolomucci of Chicago’s Oral Health Forum, and Frances Walsh of Los Angeles’ L.A. Trust—shared tactics ranging from “Sign me up!” paper wristbands to incentivizing teachers to attend “tooth fairy” conventions to engage families and communities. Here are some of their key points:

  1. Messaging is important, and so is the messenger. Earning genuine buy-in from school staff at EVERY level can make all the difference. Encourage the school to sell the program for you! For more information on messaging, click here. For more information on integrated school approaches, click here.
  2. Listen first. Your program will be more successful if you take the extra time to ask parents, teachers, principals, administration staff, community leaders, providers, and students what their needs are. Remember, collaborations are episodic, but relationships are enduring. For more information on frameworks for addressing community needs, click here. 
  3. Only collect data you will use, and use that data to tell your stories. These human interest stories and data can help obtain buy-in from parents, schools, and partner organizations. For more information on collecting quality improvement data, click here. For more information on using data to tell stories, click here. 
  4. Finding space for students’ voices is critical—not only do students provide valuable insights, they’re also great messengers to other students, family, and community members. Many programs utilize students as ambassadors, volunteer “tooth fairies,” and resident artists. For more information on empowering youth as health messengers, click here.

Attendees of this session agree: it was informative, lively, and provided real-world suggestions to effect change. Thanks to everyone for such a stellar discussion. I’m already looking forward to the next iteration at our 2018 Convention in Indianapolis!


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