A holistic approach to education

My son is an 8th-grader at the Community Health Academy of the Heights in Manhattan, where they’ve just opened a medical clinic in the school. It’s an extension of the community school, a holistic way of dealing with children. It’s a great idea.

Every student should feel there is someone to turn to for answers to tough medical questions. During their teenage years, students have questions, and this will give them a safe, controlled, confidential environment where they can seek help. Whether it is basic medical issues, mental health screenings or social issues, the clinic will provide more support services.

My son has mild asthma and food allergies. Though he has never been hospitalized for either issue, it is comforting to know that there will be comprehensive medical support on site in his school if he needs it.

When Billy started at CHAH in the 6th grade, I met with the school nurse. He was going to the after-school program, and I was concerned that they needed to be aware of his health issues. The nurse took it very seriously and taught everybody how to use an EpiPen. It’s fairly simple but if you’re not trained, it could turn into a life-threatening situation. CHAH has a school nurse available to its students daily, while many schools have nurses that are only scheduled in on-site locations periodically, if they have one at all. CHAH also has an affiliated health center around the corner that is excellent. Both my children go there for their healthcare needs.

A school-based clinic with trained professionals is the next logical step for CHAH. It will help students who don’t have access to any health care move beyond what a school nurse can offer.

Billy has told me about students who have had serious asthma attacks during the school day. The school had to call 911 and send them to the emergency room, a situation that was pretty upsetting to my son. Now they’ll be able to treat asthmatic students on site, bringing assurance to students and parents/guardians that they will not have to be sent to a hospital for treatment.

The clinic can also be a preventative resource. If a student is unsure how to deal with something, there’s help before it gets out of hand, like guidance about birth control and social or emotional issues like suicide. They’ll have a safe place to go to talk and to get referrals. Teenagers may have questions and don’t necessarily want to go to their parents or their teachers. If kids have questions about their sexual identity or are dealing with depression or physical abuse, they may feel more comfortable talking with a healthcare professional.

Since the fate of health care in the United States is unclear at the moment (with what’s going on in Washington, D.C.), providing “free” health services on site at school makes more sense every day.