KIPP Baltimore: The Ruth and Norman Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education
School Based Health Centers are a change agent for students all across the county. Students that attend schools with an SBHC have increased access to and use of primary care services, have better attendance and lower rates of disciplinary problems. Starting this school year, students at two KIPP Baltimore Schools (Harmony Academy and Ujima Village Academy) will have access to a new and innovative SBHC model. They will be the first schools to pilot the Rales Educational and Health Advancement of Youth program (READY).
READY is a new pilot that will launch this year by the Johns Hopkins Ruth and Norman Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education. The Rales Health Center is the school-based health center co-located within Harmony Academy and Ujima Village Academy that is part of the READY program. The overarching goal of the READY program is to unite health care providers, teachers and parents, all to benefit children. A unique piece of the Rales Center model is that it will operate both traditional school health services as well as the School Based Health Center at the site. Collectively, the two participating KIPP schools enroll more than 1,500 predominantly African American students in grades K-8 living in under served communities.
The READY Program takes on a population approach which may differ from the traditional SBHC model in which services are based on enrollment and students having to seek out services. Traditional SBHC programs often have little capacity to seek out and follow those children most in need of health services. Staffing constraints limit their ability to provide a stable source of primary care. READY, by contrast, fully integrates health into the school environment, curriculum and activities that engage students on a daily basis and also has the resources to have a more robust staff.
The READY program will provide a full service health and wellness program. This health center will be staffed by a physician, nurse practitioner, school nurses and a medical assistant. Health center services will include:
- Routine assessment of students’ health and developmental progress
- Screening for behavioral problems
- Monitor children with chronic conditions and teach them to self-manage symptoms of asthma or diabetes, for example
- Prescription medication delivery to the school for patients in the health center
- Future implementation of individual and group mental health counseling.
- Nutrition education including incorporating healthy and appealing foods into school and home menus and encouraging healthy eating.
The READY model will bring health to the students in the form of health and wellness curricula, increased physical activity opportunities and other health campaigns; including dental and vision screenings and services and preventative mental health services. The READY program will also provide professional development to teachers and staff on health issues. Teachers and staff wellness will include stress reduction, yoga, and mindfulness.
A parent advisory group has been instrumental in the design of the READY program. The program will also include parent education on health issues and stress reduction activities. In order to engage parents and families, the plan includes parent – teacher conferences with an individualized student health review, led by a health center professional who knows the student. Student families will have access to a “parent liaison” in the school that will conduct home visits and will be responsible for connecting families with supportive community resources such as adult health programs, mental health services, pharmacies, community athletic facilities and healthy cooking classes.
In preparation for the first year of the READY program, the health center underwent major renovation and expansion. The READY program is made possible by strong partnership with the schools, the parent advisory group, and generous funders.