Working with Educational Communities

“New York City sealant data among school-aged children indicated a very low uptake rate, an indicator of dental decay in permanent teeth. Most students using SBHC medical services had not had dental services anywhere.  This clearly made the case for adding dental services to the existing SBHC program.  Each school was challenged with lack of space for dental rooms, yet the desire for dental services was evident.  This challenge was overcome eventually, and now all the schools want dental services within their walls.
Margaret E. Rogers DNP, RN, FNP-BC, Director of Primary Health Care, Montefiore School Health Program

Working effectively with schools requires a vital understanding of how educational systems work, speak, and enact change. There are unique challenges and opportunities when working within educational systems to bring health-related education and services to the students in the school setting.  School administrators and school nurses are instrumental in understanding the health needs of students in the school, and in the design of your oral health program.  Successful school-based oral health programs have learned to work collaboratively with these key stakeholders to promote the program to parents and faculty, design a program that is least disruptive to learning, and navigate the environment unique to each school building.

Oral health problems are one of the top five reasons for chronic school absenteeism.  School-based oral health programs can provide services to reduce or eliminate dental problems or dental pain, improving school attendance for children that may have difficulty accessing care in the community for a multitude of reasons.  Your school dental program can strengthen the collaboration between the sponsoring organization, the school district and administration, the faculty, and school nurses.  School nurses provide an essential service by identifying student’s health needs and serve a key role in determining students in need of oral health care. Working collaboratively with school administration and the school nurse increases the integration of medical and dental health care.

The following resources introduce you to initiatives, philosophies, and strategies to help you work successfully with educational communities.

http://healthinschools.org/our-work/school-community-partnerships/#sthash.pPPYvqx4.dpbs  The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools works with state and district-level leaders to integrate and prioritize disparate strategies that range from targeted interventions to broader prevention efforts, coordinate approaches to behavioral, oral, and physical health, and tailor solutions to the unique context of each school and school district.

https://www.attendanceworks.org/bringing-dental-care-to-schools/: Attendance Works provides strategies and resources to reduce chronic absence and improve school attendance.  This article highlights the impact of bringing teledentistry to schools to address dental problems right in the school environment.

http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/publications/Documents/PDF/Unaffordable%20Dental%20Care%20Is%20Linked%20to%20Frequent%20School%20Absences.pdf  Unaffordable dental care links to frequent school absences. This UCLA Health Policy Research Brief explains how frequent absences may have significant negative societal and economic consequences.

https://ctb.ku.edu/en/get-started  Community Tool Box: how do we begin taking action in the community? Millions of people use the Community Tool Box each year to get help taking action, teaching, and training others in organizing for community development. Dive in to find help assessing community needs and resources, addressing social determinants of health, engaging stakeholders, action planning, building leadership, improving cultural competency, planning and evaluation, and sustaining your efforts over time.

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/school-community-collaboration-brendan-okeefe  5 Steps to Better School/Community Collaboration: Simple ideas for creating a stronger network, an author’s perspective on education/school transformation. When families, community groups, businesses, and schools band together to support learning, young people achieve more in school, stay in school longer, and enjoy the experience more.

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/wscc/index.htm  The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child, or WSCC model, is CDC’s framework for addressing health in schools.  The WSCC model is student-centered and emphasizes the role of the community in supporting the school, the connections between health and academic achievement, and the importance of evidence-based school policies and practices.

https://www.astdd.org/www/docs/integrating-oral-health-into-the-whole-school-whole-community-whole-child-school-health-model.pdf  The policy statement from Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (ASTDD) provides an overview of how one can strategically integrate school-based oral health programs within the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child School Health model.

https://www.astdd.org/bestpractices/wscc-bpar-final-3-2017.pdf ASTDD provides a comprehensive look at the Best Practice Approach through the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model. The WSCC model represents the ten components addressing education, public health, and school health alignment for improved health outcomes, and gives specific recommendations for integrating oral health into the WSCC model.