The School Health Connection (SHC), a program of the Louisiana Public Health Institute, released a study this month suggesting young New Orleanians with access to school-based health centers may be less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug abuse, unprotected sex, smoking, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity.
The SHC report is based on a comparison of survey responses from 1,924 students at six New Orleans public high schools with and without school-based health centers in 2009. It shows that students with health centers in their schools are more likely to have seen a behavioral health counselor than those without access to such centers; are more likely to speak to a mental health specialist about suicidal thoughts; are less likely to participate in risky behaviors and more likely to exercise to try to maintain a healthy weight.
The report also emphasizes the importance of the school-based centers in providing uninsured children and teens with primary and preventative health care services as well as students who don't have access to such services outside the academic setting. Eleven schools in the New Orleans area currently have school-based health centers that provide services including health screenings, immunizations, diagnosis and treatment of conditions and diseases. Three more school clinics should open soon. — Kandace Power Graves