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August 5 2003

August 5, 2003

For more information, contact:
The Center's Program Assistant, Catherine Solomon, at (202) 466-3396 or at chhcs@gwu.edu

For more info regarding the association between school-based behavioral health interventions and education outcomes, check out the newly published Annotated Bibliography.

Parents Overwhelmingly Favor Providing Health Care Services In Schools; Support Cuts Across Party Lines, Income Levels And Race, National Survey Finds

Parents Cite Importance of Health Care Services in Schools for Medical Emergencies, Chronic Illnesses, Administering Medications and Immunizations

Washington, DC - Less than half of the country's public schools employ a full-time nurse or offer health care services on site. But a new survey shows that most parents want to see health care services provided in schools. In fact, more than eight in 10 parents support the provision of health care services in schools, according to a national survey released today.

The survey found broad support for health care in schools across political and demographic groups, including large majorities of Democratic and Republican parents, African-American, Hispanic and white parents, and low-income and more affluent parents. These findings are particularly significant in light of the fact that so many children in schools today have serious health conditions such as asthma, ADHD, and diabetes.

"Many parents are under the false impression that a school nurse is on the premises all the time or that their child has access to needed health care services at school," said Julia Lear, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS). "But that isn't the case. In fact, many of the nation's 90,000 public schools do not have a full-time nurse on staff."

According to the survey, most parents believe that schools can provide a broad range of health care services - from basic and emergency medical care to substance abuse prevention, nutrition education, and mental health counseling. A majority of parents believe these services should be provided to all children, regardless of insurance coverage. However, most parents believe that schools are an important venue for health care for uninsured children.

"State and local budgets are under pressure and being cut across the country, but government officials need to know that health care in schools is vitally important," said Judith Stavisky, MEd, MPH., senior program officer, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that funded the poll. "Many parents look to their schools - or would like to look to their schools - to not only educate their children, but also to help keep them healthy, safe and ready to learn."

The nationally representative survey was commissioned by CHHCS, a nonpartisan resource and policy center based at The George Washington University. Lake Snell Perry & Associates conducted the national telephone survey of 1,101 parents of school-aged children in March 2003.

According to the survey, 83 percent of parents support health care in schools. But more specifically, the following high percentages of these groups support health in schools:

  • Democrats - 90%
  • Independents - 83%
  • Republicans - 72%
  • African Americans - 91%
  • Hispanics - 88%
  • Whites - 81%
  • Household income under $37,000 - 91%
  • Household income over $37,000 - 79%

Parents See Many Advantages to Health Care in Schools

Survey respondents were asked to rate arguments for and against health care in schools according to how convincing the arguments seem to them. Arguments in favor of health care in schools resonate strongly with parents.

  • Almost nine in ten (88%) of parents find convincing the argument that "teaching kids about how to keep themselves healthy is as important as teaching them about reading, writing, and arithmetic."

  • Eighty-one percent of parents are convinced by the argument that schools may be the only source of health care for America's uninsured children.

  • Eight in ten parents (80%) are swayed by the argument that care in school will help keep kids healthy; and 70% are convinced by the argument that care in school will enable parents to get health care services for their kids without having to miss work.

The only argument against providing health in schools that a majority finds convincing is a financial one: just over half (56%) of parents surveyed agree that "money for education is limited and health care would take money away from more important priorities."

" That's a choice we can't make. Kids can't learn if they're not healthy," said Lear. "Access to health services at school can improve a child's chances of academic achievement."

Parents Believe Schools Can Provide a Broad Ranges of Services

The survey results demonstrate that parents feel a need for more than the basic level of care they remember having access to as children in school. In fact, parents support a wide range of services, including:

  • 96% of parents say it is important for schools to provide care in the case of medical emergencies, 90% say it is important to provide care to children with chronic illnesses like asthma and diabetes, and 85% say it is important for schools to be able to administer medications.

  • 96% of parents say it is important for schools to provide alcohol and drug abuse prevention and education. And 84% of parents believe that it is important for schools to provide age-appropriate sex education.

  • 96% of parents believe that educating students about nutrition and exercise is important. 85% of parents said they would support programs in schools to help fight childhood obesity.

  • Mental health counseling from qualified professionals in schools is important to 86% of parents.

  • 82% of parents believe it is important for schools to provide basic care for children whose parents cannot afford health care.

  • 79% of parents said it is important for schools to provide immunizations.

"Health care in schools may mean a school nurse or a mental health counselor is available to students on campus, or it may mean students have access to a comprehensive school-based health center," said CHHCS's Lear. "In fact, there are now approximately 1,500 such centers located in schools across the country - a 650% increase since 1990. Clearly, schools are an important place to deliver a broad range of important health care services to children. An overwhelming majority of parents certainly think so."

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The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, which is supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is a nonpartisan policy and program resource center located at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, DC. The complete findings from this survey are available on the CHHCS web site at www.healthinschools.org.