Oakland Unified School District aims to provide health care to all students

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The Oakland Unified School District has put together a network of funds intended to achieve its goal of being the first district in the United States to guarantee universal access to primary health care, including prevention services, for all students. By the end of 2012, the district will contain a total of 26 health centers that provide primary care to students, with 9 opening this year alone.

The groundbreaking program represents a long-term investment in the health of its students, and Oakland as a whole. It also gives the media an opportunity to open a dialogue about health equity and report on the program's challenges and successes so that other schools can consider adopting similar strategies. Local news sites could contribute here, too, by providing coverage of community reactions and places for commentary.

OUSD should be commended for ensuring that children and teens, an often under-served population, receive adequate primary care, including prevention and health education. Access to convenient and affordable medical care not only helps maintain children's health in the short term, but also can reduce their long-term risk of chronic disease, and improve their success in school. These centers may prove even more effective because of their unique location within schools. This will enable the many low-income students in the district to access care they might otherwise not receive, since many low-income parents can't afford to take time off work to bring their children to doctor's visits in far away hospitals.

The Oakland District's program could further build community health if it solicited and incorporated suggestions from Oakland students and their families. Such community input is a valuable resource because it could help policy makers and medical professionals better tailor the centers to student needs. Input from students and their families could also help illuminate the social and environmental factors that contribute to the health issues they face, another key step toward resolving health issues for current and future generations of Oakland school children.


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