CSDE, CT Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and CT Association of School Based Health Centers Highlight Critical Link Between In-Person School and Children’s Well-Being and Access to Health Care
(Hartford) – The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (CT-AAP), and the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers, Inc. (CASBHC) today promoted the importance of getting children back into medical care as part of preparing students for school this fall. Planning for a full return to school will allow families and children to get caught up on critically needed immunizations, health checks and wellness care.
“The pandemic shut down Connecticut’s primary care infrastructure, and many children fell behind on well visits and immunizations,” said Dr. Robert Dudley, president of the CT-AAP. “Practices are re-opening and we encourage families to reach out early to their primary care providers to get children up-to-date on critically needed vaccinations, health screenings, and wellness checks. We hope that children will be able to participate in in-person educational activities this fall, and getting up to date with immunizations and well child checks will put them in the best position to do that.”
“Connecticut’s school based health centers will continue to a be strong collaborative safety-net health care provider within their individual school districts, collaborating with school nursing, social work, guidance staff and teachers to provide critical services including school required vaccines, school physicals, behavioral health counseling, and flu vaccines, so that students will be able to start the new school year on time and have the support they need to be physically and emotionally healthy and ready to learn,” said Melanie Bonjour, president of the CASBHC.
“Research shows that healthy children learn better. Returning to school is vitally important for their social and emotional development and well-being, including the promotion of health and wellness activities that support better student outcomes. It is well-recognized that the provision of a safe and healthy school environment will positively impacts academic achievement,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. “While returning to school in fall is the best way to ensure all students have equitable access to opportunities to thrive both academically and personally, doing so safely has and will always be our priority.”
The CSDE, CT-AAP, and CASBHC also emphasized the role that school nurses and school-based health centers (SBHC) will play in helping families, children, and adolescents catch up. Many students and their families rely on SBHCs to meet their needs for a full range of age-appropriate preventative and acute care services to improve the physical, social, emotional, and behavioral health of children. The services delivered through SBHCs and school nurses, including dental, vision, and mental/behavioral, are often-times the only health care a student may receive during the year particularly in under-resourced urban and rural communities. When health care is accessed in schools, students spend more time in the classroom and parents do not have to take time off of work to bring their children to an off-site medical provider. With an emphasis on prevention, early intervention and risk reduction, nurses and SBHCs’ staff also promote health education and identify and support a wide range of social, emotional and mental health needs of students and staff. This will be especially important as students may be struggling with anxiety or distress resulting from the impact of the pandemic.
In addition to disparities in areas such as access to technology and connectivity that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) reported a sharp drop in orders for vaccines during the pandemic leading to a decrease in Connecticut’s child immunization levels for vaccine-preventable diseases. This parallels a drop in immunization rates across New England as primary care practices limited in person visits.
Mounting research supports the fact that access to in-person schooling is critical to student development and their long-term success. Statewide school closures due to COVID-19 has impacted all students and, particularly, students with disabilities and already vulnerable student populations. Being physically present in school affords the connections, social-emotional support system, and structure that was lacking at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
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