Promising Practices to Reduce Chronic Absence

School Health Centers

In 2016, the New Haven Public School (NHPS) School Health Center department partnered with the City Health Department and the NHPS Youth, Family & Community Engagement Office to reduce chronic absenteeism for health reasons, a leading cause of missed school.  In 2016, one in three NHPS students had a chronic illness and health issues are among the leading causes for chronic absence.


NHPS operates 17 school health centers and 8 dental clinics that are staffed by the district and 5 subcontracted community based health providers.  The School Health Centers (SHCs) offer medical, behavioral and dental services to more than 10,000 students. All of the SHCs are overseen by the Director of School Health Centers, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), who also coordinates with the City Health Department’s 39 school nurses. The partnership between school nurses and SHCs is critical since each has a different role.  School nurses provide minor episodic care and/or triage for students who are sick or injured, monitor the compliance of required school entry health forms and dispense authorized medications to students during the school day.  SHCs are staffed by nurse practitioners who can provide a higher level care than school nurses including: physical exams and immunizations, diagnosing and managing chronic illnesses and writing prescriptions.


The primary program components of Healthy Attendance Matters include:

  1. Messaging to parents – The Healthy Attendance Matters awareness campaign is a part of the districtwide campaign, Attendance Matters!  The SHC department has developed health guidelines for parents which are included in the parent orientation packet, targeted messaging campaigns (e.g., asthma, dental care, flu prevention) and focused messaging to parents on their responsibility for healthy attendance. Learn more in the NHPS School Health Centers Annual Report 2016-17.
  2. Attendance and case management meetings – The school nurses and the SHCs are members of the student attendance team and the district data team and also have case management meetings to develop individualized health plans.
  3. Walk-in assessment service – Parents can bring in child for health check during the first two hours of school to determine if they are well enough to attend school.
  4. Urgent visit referrals – School nurse or staff refer students who would have otherwise be sent home to nurse practitioner for an assessment.

 Results/Outcomes from the School-based Health Centers:

  • 1,500 students were provided immunizations and/or physical exams required for school entry, reducing absences at the beginning of the school year.
  • 261 (67 percent) of the 389 students assessed at the walk-in health check were sent to class.
  • 95 percent of parents who used the walk-in health assessment indicated that they would have kept child home if the SHC did not provide this service.
  • Schools with a SHC and a full-time school nurse averaged 24 percent early dismissals for health reasons compared to 41 percent for schools that did not have a SHC and only part-time nurse.
  • 1,574 (75 percent) of the 2,120 students that were referred for urgent visits went back to class.
  • 91 percent of students seen in a SHC for asthma returned to class.
  • 95 percent of students who were seen in a SHC for mental health issue returned to class after the visit.
  • 99 percent students with received medicine for asthma in schools with a SHC had an Asthma Action Plan in place compared to only 66 percent in schools without a SHC.


Health Barriers

Strategy: School Health Centers

District: New Haven Public Schools

District Snapshot: 21,981 Students; 9,531 Hispanic/Latino;3,048 White; 8,630 African American; 46 Schools; 19% chronic absence rate (2015-16) and 18.3% (2016-17)

Contact Information:   Sue Peters, Director, School Health Centers, 203-946-4860,