Strengthening the health care and school connection
Rebecca Dudovitz, MD, general pediatric division chief at UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital and director of pediatric health services research at Geffen School of Medicine, has undertaken research with the goal of helping public schools in Los Angeles become a pathway to better health care and ultimately better health for students and their families.
“I am investigating how schools can be an anchor institution in communities and connect families and kids to services that impact their health,” she explains, noting one way of doing that is by providing school-based health care.
Dr. Dudovitz works closely with the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, an organization that helps support school-based health centers. Many are full scope primary care offices which integrate dental and mental health services.
Located on the school campuses, these centers have doors connected to the schools and to the outside community as well.
“We have shown, for example, that even when schools were closed to in-person learning during the pandemic, students and families continued to use those centers. They were a critical access point for health care when a lot of communities didn’t have easy access to health care,” says Dr. Dudovitz. “We’ve also done research to show that students who visit those school-based centers have improved attendance after visiting them.”
Integrating the school-based health centers with the larger school community is another important part of the work Dr. Dudovitz has undertaken.
She helped develop a School Health Integration Measure that facilitates discussion between those in education and those in the clinics about ways to provide more coordinated and integrated services.
“Kids and families that schools are worried about are the same ones that I’m worried about as a pediatrician. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could work together instead of separately in our own silos?” asks Dr. Dudovitz.
“That’s the next frontier: truly integrated care across the education and health sectors.”