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School-based health centers help 2 million

Feb. 2, 2012 at 1:13 AM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- More than 1,900 U.S. school-based health centers provide access to primary medical care, mental health and other services to 2 million students, officials say.

"Despite economic challenges, 2011 was a great year for school-based healthcare," Linda Juszczak, president of The National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, said in a statement.

Recent research confirmed poor health affects educational achievement, but the study also showed:

-- Students who visit school-based health centers two times a semester are a third less likely to drop out of school.

-- Students who use school-based health centers have higher grade point averages and attendance compared to students who don't use them.

-- High school students had a 50 percent decrease in absenteeism and 25 percent decrease in tardiness two months after receiving school-based mental health counseling.

For example, a 17-year-old female student in Oregon went to her school-based health center after suffering from abdominal pain. She was found to be positive for H. pylori, a bacteria linked to the development of ulcers and stomach cancer. In addition, the center staff completed an oral health assessment and found that she had gingivitis and a back molar with active cavities -- often linked with gastric infection.

The student was referred to a dental hygienist for further evaluation and treatment, and then treated with antibiotics. The student said she had been taking dental and abdominal pain as part of daily life, Juszczak said.