National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month
Bringing health care to teens at school!
How do you entice teenagers to visit a school-based health center? By making it a cool place to hang out! HealthPoint staff at our Tyee Campus Health Center in SeaTac, in partnership with the Highline School District, have succeeded in making students feel safe, respected and welcomed since the clinic opened in 2006.
Students from the three high schools that comprise the Tyee Educational Complex, plus Chinook Middle School, receive primary medical services from HealthPoint provider, Anna Varley, PA-C. But in addition to physicals, immunizations, well-child check-ups, and contraceptive counseling, students have access to counseling and support from a psychologist and registered dietician for such needs as stress management, depression, relationship problems, weight loss and nutrition. The clinic also makes referrals for specialized services in the community.
Is the clinic staff seeing positive changes overall in students who visit the clinic? “Every day, all day long,” says Varley. “We increase awareness. Students take ownership of their health. They brag to their friends that they got the HPV shot.”
Apart from primary medical, “the main things students come in for are relationship problems, dating violence, depression, anxiety, weight loss and family conflict,” says Alesha Muljat, PhD, Behavioral Consultant.
In addition to Varley and Muljat, Mayra Bonilla staffs the clinic front office daily, and nutritionist Michelle Tranter visits twice a month. All work closely with the schools to continuously develop new services and programs to meet the needs of the student population.
Several after-school groups have formed at the center around various health topics: a cooking class through a partnership with the YMCA, a yoga class taught by instructors from Street Yoga, and educational, skill-building Girls Wellness Groups for girls interested in improving their physical and emotional health. By choosing these positive after-school activities, Muljat notes, students are avoiding at-risk behaviors. The cooking class has far-reaching benefits beyond the school walls. Students are now excited about going home and cooking healthy meals for their families, Muljat says.
The health center also offers the Be Your Best! text-messaging intervention program, a partnership with Global to Local, for students interested in healthy behavior change and/or weight loss. Clinic providers are also available to give educational workshops/trainings to students and staff. One example is the GAMES (Getting Aware Makes Empowered Students) program, which provides educational activities for student athletes twice a month.
Students can even stay connected to their health center through its own Facebook page.
Soon, the Tyee clinic will no longer be HealthPoint’s sole school-based health center. We are working with the Evergreen Campus in Burien to open a clinic there later this year. Evergreen students will have access to a similar range of services and support designed to keep them healthy.
Students are not required to pay to access this health care and other programs. HealthPoint’s school-based health clinics are funded through generous grants and individual donors.
Click here to read how one student has made changes in her life thanks to our School-Based Health Center.