COVID-19 response has put a spotlight on the key role schools play in the health of students, but this has been the case since long before the pandemic. Since sick children can’t focus on learning, by necessity, schools address the many health challenges that face students, ranging from minor illness to chronic conditions. In addition to helping students with individual health concerns, schools are uniquely positioned to increase access to healthcare and provide vital education and environments that help children develop healthy habits and reach their full potential. External support is vital to helping schools make the most of these opportunities.
With input from the community, the Foundation identified school nurses as a key lever in expanding school-based health. School nurses are on the front lines of meeting the health needs of students. Their work goes far beyond bandaging playground scrapes, to helping students manage chronic health conditions, learn healthy habits, and connect to community resources.
However, community input and data shared with Moses Taylor Foundation indicates that while local school nurses are extremely dedicated, they also face many challenges stemming from misunderstanding of their role. Responding to this feedback, the Foundation has prioritized supporting school nurses in their work to meet student health needs across the Foundation’s 11-county region, particularly in districts where more than 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
The Foundation began this work in 2019 by commissioning a needs assessment of the region’s school nurses. This assessment was conducted by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) and completed in early 2020. Results were used to further guide the development of the Foundation’s School Nurse Strategy.
School-based health centers have been proven as effective, sustainable models to eliminate health disparities and barriers to care, improving health outcomes for students and their families.
As part of our effort to expand school-based health, the Foundation is interested in providing support to create new, and expand services offered at existing, school-based health centers in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. Priority will be given to schools with large percentages of low-income students, high enrollment, and lack of proximity to comparable care.
As work on the planning grant continues, the Foundation is also exploring more immediate opportunities to support programming that alleviates older adult isolation, while still adhering to physical distancing guidelines.