Timely reminders at schools highly effective
New research from the University of Colorado School of Medicine shows that school-based health centers are highly effective in delivering comprehensive care, especially vaccines to adolescents.
The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, highlights the value of a `captive audience' in a school setting where students can be easily reminded to get recommended vaccinations.
"School-based health centers can provide comprehensive care to children and adolescents who are hard to reach," said CU School of Medicine professor of pediatrics Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, and lead author of the study. "I think it's a very important model especially in underserved and low income areas. School-based health centers are not prevalent across the United States but I think they should be."
Kempe, director of the Children's Outcomes Research Program at Children's Hospital Colorado, said the scope of immunizations for adolescents has expanded markedly over the last few years, prompting discussions about a platform of inoculations for this population similar to those given to infants.
Immunizations recommended for adolescents include the meningococcal conjugate vaccine; tetanus-diptheria-acellular pertussis vaccine and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
"While new vaccines targeted for adolescents certainly hold great promise, they also face certain challenges," Kempe said. "Adolescents are an age group that is less likely to access health care and only 9 percent of all health care visits by adolescents are for preventative care."
And then there are issues of parental consent, lack of health insurance, missed chances for vaccinations during routine doctor visits and scattering of immunization records among multiple providers.
Kempe and her fellow researchers, funded by the Centers for Disease Control, studied vaccination outcomes among sixth graders at four school-based health centers at Denver area schools.