Over the last few weeks I have been very aware of an increasing amount of news articles related to children’s health rights. I have seen discussions around immunization, court rulings on parent’s ability to opt their children out of treatment, laws passed on medical marijuana availability to children, and if you type in Obamacare and children you will receive around 105 million results. This is not a new issue, but it seems to be trending in a unique way at the moment.
Each of these items is directed to some level at policy. What rights are protected? How do we treat children medically compared to adults? Who should be covered? These are all valid questions, but primarily coming from a theoretical space, with a few inroads being made into practical application. Some area schools, however, are doing something very practical that could have more real world effect on the rights of children than many of these overarching policies filtering down through the legal and political systems.
This year the KIPP Public Schools in Houston, Texas will institute a program called KIPP Care that will locate health care clinics for students on the school campuses. Nurse practitioners and overseeing pediatricians will be located on campus with the ability to give immunizations, prescribe medicines, conduct physicals and give treatment for a variety of minor and long-term conditions. The program works with Medicaid, public and private insurance, or offers an inexpensive fee-based option for usage. The hope is that this program could expand to the broader community in the future.
This is an example of a program that could affect the health rights of children on a very practical day-to-day basis. Access is one of the major factors in why a family may not go to see a doctor. This is likely also part of the reason why clinics are becoming more popular for families that a traditional doctors office setting, but even here there are issues.
I recently enrolled my 4-year old in a new school after a move. As part of that process I needed to get a well child check up and immunizations with all the appropriate documentation. 20 phone calls to medical offices, 4 visits to clinics and 2 discussions with the school later I was finally able to get at least the well child checkup done in order for my child to start school the next week. It took an additional two weeks to get the immunizations. Many wasted hours and accumulated stress went into this process. I am lucky that I have the flexibility both temporally and financially to accommodate the process, but that is not necessarily the case for many families out there. What would their options be? Not have their child in school? Forge a signature? Ignore it and hope the schools record keeping doesn’t pick it up? An on campus clinic can provide access and convenience in a way that creates a positive situation for the families and children involved rather than a stressor.
Another benefit from this program is a child’s exposure to the medical staff. Rather than seeing a stranger once every few years for painful shots and uncomfortable check ups, students are able to build a relationship with people they see on and around campus daily. A practitioner can form a trust in which well-being is the object, which may hopefully grow with the child, promoting a positive relationship with the medical system.
As anyone involved in education can tell you, it doesn’t take much to pull a child away from education. Distraction, sleepiness, hunger and maybe especially sickness can stop the learning process in its tracks. We already limit distraction nd feed our students and now, being able to holistically aid a student on campus can be a great help. If a child is sick, they aren’t sent home to a parent in hopes that they’ll get the treatment they need; they are treated. Students aren’t removed from class after class and forced to play catch up upon their return; they instead may miss minutes.
This is a child-first practical, hands-on program that can positively effect the health education and–to an extent–family of its students. In contrast with policies that try to filter down to make a change, with success it may be able to filter up to change policy.