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Public Health Rep. 2008 Nov-Dec;123(6):739-50.

Access and utilization patterns of school-based health centers at urban and rural elementary and middle schools.

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Department of Community Health Sciences, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada.



We examined patterns of enrollment, use, and frequency of use in school-based health centers (SBHCs), as well as the referral, diagnosis, and disposition of SBHC visits among newly implemented SBHCs.


Four rural and four urban school districts implementing SBHCs were examined from 2000 to 2003. Total school enrollment for students was 13,046. SBHC enrollment and medical encounter data were tracked using a Web-based medical database. Descriptive analyses were conducted to evaluate primary care access and utilization patterns.


A total of 7,460 (57.2%) students were enrolled in their SBHCs, of which 4,426 used the SBHC at least once for a total of 14,050 visits. SBHC enrollment was greater in urban districts but rate of utilization was higher in rural districts. Black students, students with public or no health insurance, and students with asthma or attention deficit disorder had higher enrollment and utilization. Rural parents referred more children to SBHCs than urban parents. Teachers referred more students who were black, had asthma, had no public or health insurance, or had acute-type health issues. Total visits increased during the three years, with the largest increase in mental health services. Students who were younger, white, attended rural schools, had public or health insurance, or had infections were more likely to be sent home. Those with chronic conditions and visits for mental health were more likely to be returned to class.


Utilization patterns suggest improved access to needed health care for disadvantaged children. SBHCs are an important part of the safety net for the populations they are intended to serve.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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