Building Momentum for School-Based Health Care

Schools and children’s health care providers have always shared similar goals: helping kids thrive so they can become healthy, successful adults.

But over the last 20 years, an expansion in the ways these two systems think about their missions has made it clear that they should be working together, writes Mary Kay Irwin, EdD, senior director of School Health Services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Pediatrics Nationwide.

Health care has a heightened focus on “social determinants of health,” or factors outside of medical care that have a big impact on health: high quality housing, stable jobs, educational opportunities. Education has seen an increased spotlight on the “whole child,” or the concept that a child can achieve the most educationally when they are healthy, safe and have the resources they need.

“Social determinants of health and the whole child framework are the same idea through different lenses,” Dr. Irwin writes.


With that in mind, Nationwide Children’s now operates 14 primary care clinics inside local schools, two mobile health clinics, vaccine clinics and a school-based wheelchair clinic. There is also school-based asthma therapy in 254 schools across 30 districts, wellness education programming with an annual reach of over 6,000 students, school nursing services, a recently launched dental program and significant behavioral health programming.

Dr. Irwin writes more about the future of school-based health care, and her suggestions for starting collaborations between schools and health care providers, here.