School Health Clinics Are Growing in Number in St. Louis Region

By Taketa, Kristen | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

School Health Clinics Are Growing in Number in St. Louis Region


Taketa, Kristen, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Something as simple as a health physical is not readily available to Ezekiel McIntyre, who's a freshman at Normandy High School.

His mother, Oneesha Everett, has tried three times to apply for Medicaid, but she still has no health insurance because she said she didn't hear back from the Department of Social Services.

"It's such a hassle to get insurance," said Everett, a working mother of four. "It's crazy, crazy, crazy."

Last Monday, Everett took Ezekiel to a small health clinic that recently opened in one of Normandy High's buildings. He got a free physical in less than an hour. Now, he can try out for football, one thing he was looking forward to at his new school.

"It's awesome that they put it in here, period," Everett said of the clinic.

This month, Normandy High joined a growing number of public schools around the St. Louis region that are opening on-campus health clinics.

Services at these clinics include not just immunizations and checkups, but also chronic disease management care for conditions such as asthma and diabetes; counseling for behavioral, emotional and mental health issues such as anger, bullying and depression; dental cleanings; and reproductive health services including contraception, pregnancy tests and screenings for sexually transmitted infections.

Many clinics are open to area residents in addition to students and staff. Many, if not most, are free to those who lack insurance.

Research has shown that poor health is a barrier to student learning, is associated with lower grades and is a common reason why students miss school or drop out. School-based health clinics such as Normandy's are one of a number of ways educators are seeking to address not just their students' educational needs, but needs of the whole self, such as health and emotional well-being.

"The more health you have, the more ability you to have to learn," said Jason Purnell, a Washington University associate professor and director of For the Sake of All.

HEALTH CARE BARRIERS

Normandy's clinic is the first major project to result from the For the Sake of All report, which detailed Purnell's research findings on health disparities facing African-Americans in the region.

The need for a health clinic is particularly acute in the impoverished Normandy district, where youth a majority of whom are African-American are twice as likely to visit the emergency room and three times as likely to be uninsured as the average St. Louis County youth, the For the Sake of All team found. A high number of emergency room visits often indicates that patients are not receiving adequate preventive care.

A school index compiled by the Missouri Wonk consulting firm found that Normandy High has more need for a health clinic than any high school in the region after Vashon, in St. Louis.

Ninety-seven percent of Normandy's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, a measure of poverty, and 97 percent are African-American. More than a fourth of Normandy High students lacked their required immunizations in 2016. From August to November that year, students visited the school nurse 2,205 times for a variety of health issues. …

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