The connection between healthcare and education

The connection between healthcare and education

By Angela Clabon

Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Inc. recently partnered with Diversity Telehealth, a company specializing in telemedicine, in an effort to close the health care access gap in disadvantaged communities across the St. Louis Region. To accomplish this goal, high-grade medical tech has been introduced to our service model within our school-based health centers.

The improvement stems from my understanding and experience with healthcare as a child. I grew up poor, in North Saint Louis, in a family of seven kids and one parent. Our mother frequently spoke about the connection between health care access and education. She hoped we would eventually learn more about our health through the experiences we would have with our doctors. However, those experiences were few and far between. Being able to learn about health and having access to it is something I wish for our youth to have.

Unfortunately, many children in our communities do not learn about healthcare because of limited access to it. This is the reason why I’ve decided to bring telehealth to our schools through school-based health centers.

So, what is school-based health care? School-based health centers (SBHCs) are fully staffed clinics located in or on school property. Each one is different, but most offer a full range of services, including primary care, mental health and social services. Studies have found that SBHCs improve healthcare access to students which greatly impacts their success in school.

According to the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, research and evaluations have demonstrated school-based health centers represent cost-effective investments of public resources. Here are just a few highlights from their evaluation:

• A study by Johns Hopkins University found that school-based health centers reduced inappropriate emergency room use among regular users of school-based health centers.

• A study of school-based health center costs by Emory University School of Public Health attributed a reduction in Medicaid expenditures in regards to inpatient, drug, and emergency room visits due to the use of school-based health centers.

• A study of elementary school-based health centers, conducted by Montefiore Medical Center, found a reduction in hospitalization and an increase in school attendance among inner-city school children suffering from asthma.

• Another study concluded school-based health centers impact the hospitalization rate of children suffering from asthma. According to this study, hospitalization rates decreased 10 percent for children suffering from asthma. Additionally, the study revealed marked improvements in the use of peak flow meters and inhalers.

• Adolescents who received counseling services in school-based health centers significantly decreased their rate of absenteeism and tardiness. Conversely, those not receiving counseling services slightly increased their absenteeism and tardiness rates.

Having the ability to serve more patients is directly influenced by our ability to use telemedicine. Our partnership with Diversity Telehealth empowered us to seek new opportunities to provide services to more people through school-based health centers.

As Myrtle Hilliard Davis continues to provide quality healthcare to the St. Louis Region, advancing health care access to the schools in Hazelwood and Riverview Gardens evolves our understanding of how we can treat our disadvantaged communities. Hopefully, our children will find more success in their education through better health. And one day, I hope they will pay it forward. 

Angela Clabon is the Chief Executive Officer of Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Inc., a Federally Qualified Health Center located in north St. Louis city. A native of St. Louis, Clabon obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri, and later obtained a master’s degree in business administration from Webster University. She has dedicated over 33 years to the health care movement in the city of St. Louis.