Academic journal article Journal of School Health

A Community Collaborative Partnership for the Chicago Public Schools

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

A Community Collaborative Partnership for the Chicago Public Schools

Article excerpt

Creating healthier communities and overcoming complex social problems requires collaborative solutions that bring communities and institutions together as equal partners and build on the assets, strengths, and capacities of each. (1) Collaboration involves a process of participation where people, groups, and organizations work together to achieve desired results. (2) Thus, academic health centers are re-examining their missions in response to changes in demographics, organization, and financing of medical care services, and emphasis on a population perspective in public health. (3)

In the United States, 48 million children and adolescents attend grades K-12 in 110,000 public and private schools. (4) Nearly one in seven adolescents has no health insurance, and those who are uninsured usually include the poor and minorities who need such coverage. (5) Given the number of children involved, schools can contribute to adolescent health promotion and disease prevention. Major threats to adolescent health are behavioral, and adolescent morbidity and mortality are rooted in these health-risk behaviors, so early intervention can decrease morbidity in adulthood and prevent life-long negative consequences. (6)

By creating community and university partnerships, school health promotion and education efforts can advance while providing access to preventive health services otherwise unavailable because adolescents often do not receive such care. (7) This paper describes a collaborative project in Chicago emphasizing a community-campus partnership between the Chicago Public Schools and the Rush University College of Nursing.

Service learning involves a structured learning experience that combines community service with preparation and reflection. Service-learning students provide community service while they learn about the context of service, the connection between the service and academic coursework, and their roles as professionals and citizens. Service learning can help future health professionals acquire the community-oriented competencies and civic responsibilities needed in our rapidly changing health system. (8-13)

Community-campus partnerships yield numerous outcomes, including: community-responsive, culturally competent health professionals; a diverse health professional workforce; access to health care; access to technology; community development; environmental justice; economic development; and engaged campuses and citizens.

THE PARTNERSHIP

Seven Academic Preparation Centers (APCs) operate as a subset of Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Enrolled students, typically aged 13-16 years, have not succeeded in their neighborhood schools due to learning difficulties, truancy, and behavioral and psychosocial problems. They receive a second chance to complete the eighth grade by enrolling in an APC for one year, providing an opportunity to re-enter the CPS system as a freshman or a sophomore the following year after completing the program.

APC students are considered high risk for several reasons. They are minority students (about 65% African American and 35% Hispanic) with little or no financial resources available to them. The 1998 statistics for one center indicated that 92.6% of its students belonged to low-income families. Many students participate in risk behaviors such as using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. They lack exercise and a well-balanced diet. Many are sexually active, often without protection, and face increased risk for sexually transmitted infections. They suffer increased rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion from failure to use contraception. Many females are unaware of the availability of emergency contraception. They often are involved in activities that lead to increased risk of unintentional and intentional injuries. These behaviors contribute to poor health, education, and social outcomes that extend beyond adolescence, and promote increased adult morbidity and mortality. …

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