School-Based Health Centers

School-based health centers (SBHCs) typically serve students in grades 6-12. They provide access to primary and preventative health care, including family planning and other reproductive health services.1 2 SBHCs eliminate financial and logistical barriers because they offer services free or at reduced cost and are located in or near schools, and eliminate the need for students to find transportation to make appointments. SBHCs are often sited in under-resourced communities and therefore help those who are uninsured or underinsured or are low-income.

SBHC policies and practices must align with parent consent rules and relevant state laws and policies. Although students who attend schools with SBHCs that offer family planning services have greater contraceptive use and fewer unintended pregnancies, many adolescents do not receive family planning care for a variety of reasons, including a lack of awareness about the SBHC.3

Effective ways to increase utilization include:

  • A sexual health curriculum or one-time classroom presentations increase students' awareness of family planning services within SBHCs. In-person meetings with students are especially important in creating a sense of trust and familiarity.
  • Out-of-classroom events such as SBHC visits and tours, lunchtime education sessions, partnering with student groups and programs, large-scale events or activities, and presentations on social media platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok.
  • SBHC staff, health educators, and AmeriCorps volunteers can be helpful to both in-class and out-of-classroom educational activities.
  • Listen to advice from students about how the health center can improve its services to better meet students’ family planning needs.
  • Confidentiality is a significant concern for many adolescents and may prevent some from seeking needed family planning care. Therefore, it is important that SBHCs protect confidentiality and privacy and describe the measures they take to potential clients.

Some children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression when they experience trauma or stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have anxiety or depression.

In addition to avoiding childhood traumas, here are some healthy behaviors that may help prevent mental disorders:

  • Having a healthy eating plan centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (for example, beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, and nuts and seeds
  • Participating in physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age
  • Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques

A study by Child Trends concluded that "SBHCs provide access to and information on family planning services for adolescents. However, the benefits that SBHCs offer may remain unrealized if students are unaware of all services offered. Investing in outreach efforts can help SBHCs ensure that students are accessing needed family planning services.”

This report presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. Catalyst for Children is not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader's own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms, or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise, or other assistance or advice, the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. Catalyst for Children specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage, or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this report or participating in any programs described in this report.

1Arenson M, Hudson PJ, Lee N, Lai B. The Evidence on School-Based Health Centers: A Review. Glob Pediatr Health. 2019;6:2333794X19828745. Published 2019 Feb 19. doi:10.1177/2333794X19828745

2Kim L , Ciaravino S, Parekh J, Manlove J. Promising Practices for Expanding Students’ Awareness and Use of School-based Family Planning Services. Child Trends. 15 February, 2022

3Boonstra H. Meeting the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs of Adolescents in School-Based Health Centers Guttmacher Policy Review. Winter 2015 | Vol. 18, No. 1

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