New Tool Fosters Partnerships Between Health and Education

January 19, 2016|1:53 p.m.| Scott Briscoe

Last Friday, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced the renewal of a partnership that stresses the link between health and education. The agencies unveiled Healthy Students, Promising Futures, a toolkit with ideas and examples of how the two sectors can work together.

“I can tell you from my experience as a nurse, when a child’s health is compromised, when they’re ill, their performance is compromised,” said Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration. “We have twin priorities that are inextricably linked.”

Acting Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. noted ways the sectors can work together, including schools providing health screenings, primary care providers asking about school attendance, and partnerships with hospitals that focus on community wellness. “To achieve that end, today we release recommendations and tools to increase access to healthcare, narrow disparities, and promote student success,” he said of the new toolkit.

He also noted that there will be technical assistance and funding opportunities to support these aims as the Department of Education works to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which became law in December. Title IV of the act provides $1.65 billion in FY2017 (and $1.6 billion in subsequent years) to student support and academic enrichment grants, at least 20 percent of which must be used to create a safe and healthy school environment. The agency is working on comprehensive guidance and proposed regulations for the entire act, and updates can be found on the agency’s web page.

The five high-impact opportunities described in the new toolkit are:

  1. Help eligible students and family members enroll in health insurance
  2. Provide and expand reimbursable health services in schools
  3. Provide or expand services that support at-risk students, including through Medicaid-funded case management
  4. Promote healthy school practices through nutrition, physical activity, and health education
  5. Build local partnerships and participate in hospital community health needs assessments

The partnership between education and health is a good example of a health-in-all-policies approach as outlined in ASTHO’s Health in All Policies Position Statement and in the ongoing work of ASTHO’s 2016 President’s Challenge: Advancing Health Equity and Achieving Optimal Health for All.

Scott Briscoe, CAE, is senior director of communications and marketing at ASTHO.