In celebration of National Health Center Week, this compilation comes from the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council to share their perspectives on the importance of school-based health centers.
I never had a school-based health center growing up. As a matter of fact, I never heard of school-based health centers until I was seventeen years old. When I finally learned about them, I was amazed at how brilliant the concept was and how extensive the benefits were. During my school career, I constantly saw my peers suffering from the pressure and stress of school, as well as other mental health issues. This, paired with my county’s inadequate health education, made me wonder what life could have been like if we had an SBHC. We would have had more support, more education, less absences, better academic performance, and more equal access to healthcare in general. I think we all would have been a lot happier. Thankfully, my county recently implemented our first SBHC in early 2020 and I’m beyond excited to see how it positively changes our community.
As cliché as it is, I can confidently say that without my school-based health center, I would never have made it to the point that I am at today: alive, happy, and healthy. Being a student is so difficult in this generation- many of us face inevitable student debt, have to juggle jobs with our classes; we feel the pressure to excel in extracurricular, all while maintaining the social life of any teenager. Often times guidance counselors are overworked. If your school was fortunate enough to have a nurse, they could do little to help in terms of emotional health. Private therapy is not only difficult to fit in with our busy schedules but can become incredibly expensive, with or without insurance. Where else are young people supposed to turn towards when they need help? My SBHC has always been my safety net. My health center recognized my struggles and took me in at a point in my life where I was determined to do anything to stop living entirely. Without the support that their services offered, I feel that I would not be able to write this today emphasizing how important my school clinic is. So often young adults feel that they are voiceless. Despite being told by generations before us to speak up and stand up for ourselves, our pleas have often went ignored when we advocate for our own health. My SBHC has always been a pillar of reliability where I know that no matter the issue, they will listen- something that every adolescent deserves. It is crucial that we continue to focus on adolescent health in health centers to amplify the young voices that continue to advocate for themselves and each other.
The school-based health center at my high school benefited me and my family because it lifted the concern for my parents from getting off work and getting an appointment with my primary care provider instantly. This can be difficult because it can take up to weeks or even months to be given a time and day that works for both myself and my parents. Having access to the SBHC at school made me take charge of my needs and was able to utilize it without having to consult my parents. It’s quite easy to make use of the SBHC because it’s in school. This also decreases the number of absences for students. I’ve utilized the SBHC for sport physicals and health check-ups. It’s intended to be a safe space for students and for them to use it for their concerns and needs and the visits are confidential. I think I value SBHCs more now as a college student than before. There are many benefits you can gain from SBHCs that students may not recognize. For one, you will be offered care regardless of being insured or not. Some students and families cannot afford insurance and may neglect the care they might need, but with an SBHC in your school, that pressure is taken off. They offer services from primary care, mental health, sexual health, and even dental and vision at some locations. The care that anyone will get at a school-based health center is the same as they would receive at their local hospitals/health provider, except for the fact that SBHC’s are more convenient for students.
Growing up in my community, we didn’t have access to an SBHC anywhere nearby; the closest one to my house was entirely outside of my community, an almost 45-minute drive away. Being involved with the School-Based Health Alliance over this past year has shown me how much I missed by not having an SBHC in my community. For a growing student to be focused and ready to learn, they must be healthy—physically and mentally. Having a school-based health center in the community gives students a way to reach out and receive care, find resources, and take charge of their health care. SBHCs are vital to the success of youth because they prioritize adolescent healthcare. It’s rare to see organizations that value youth input and put the needs of youth first. SBHCs do just that and could use all the funding and resources we can possibly provide for them.
The mental and physical implications that go into being an adolescent sets the tone for the rest of that youth’s life. The importance of school-based health centers allows youth to have that steady foundation in their overall health to ultimately lead happier, healthier, and more fulfilling lives. My high school, South Hagerstown High School, has one of the two school-based health centers in Washington County (Maryland). The effect of SBHCs on the academic performance of students, relationship with others, and the student’s ability to lead their lives is profound. SBHC’s provide students with a network of resources they may not have had access to if not for the centers. Being that they are in schools, it provides a sense of convenience and community, so youth do not have to go in places where they may not be comfortable to seek help. Instilling the necessary components of healthcare during such fragile states of development pose as a beneficial countermeasure towards healthcare discrepancies in adulthood. Utilizing school-based health centers promotes the importance of healthcare education in addition to standard academia. Services offered by SBHCs better compliment the various needs of youth in an accessible and comfortable environment. I have seen the positive outcomes of having a school-based health center, and I hope more institutions adopt such an amazing way of catering to youth.
As a first-generation, low-income Vietnamese American, I grew up struggling financially and with less access to resources. That’s why I joined the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council to work to provide access to healthcare and services to the youth. School-based health centers are the utmost essential to achieving health equity to the marginalized youth populations. Countless youth don’t have the necessary access to healthcare nor support that is key to their development. Having a school-based health center at each and every school will ensure that all youth, no matter where they are, have equal and equitable opportunities to continue to grow and prosper.
As a student who has a school-based health center in my school’s campus, I have been able to see the beneficial services it can provide to every student. Our center has visual, dental, and primary care physicians available, which aids the student in not having to go off campus for any check-in. I had a dentist appointment on the same day as a test in my fourth period. Since I used my school-based health center, I was able to return to class with clean teeth and start my test at the same time as my peers. School-based health centers are important in student success, because a majority of students will not return back to school after leaving campus. Because of our school-based health center, our school is able to simultaneously promote student wellness and success in achieving educational goals.