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Start / expand a school-based health center.


Students can see a medical professional at Calhoun County High School without having to miss the whole day, at no cost, with no need for parents to leave work. (Photo: Kate Long)


Some school-based centers, such as Riverside Health Center, opt to serve the public too. Most have a separate entrance and treatment area for the public. (Photo: Kate Long)

When a school-based health center is open, parents don’t have to leave work to take their child to a clinic for routine problems. The clinic is at the school. Students do not have to miss school to get a flu shot, have an annual physical, have their eyes and teeth checked or get routine medical care.

And the care is free. Its staff can do things a school nurse cannot, such as prescribe medication and set broken bones. They see children whose parents have given permission, usually a blanket permission at the beginning of school. And it’s all free.

Research says that school-based health centers also have a positive effect on children’s academic achievement.  See “School-Based Health Interventions and Academic Achievement,” from the Washington state Department of Health.

West Virginia has more school-based health centers per capita than any other state.

The first center opened in the late 1990s. About 15 years later, in 2013 , there were 88 centers, serving 107 schools in 32 counties.

A school-based health center is usually run by a local federally-funded health community health center. It serves any child whose parents give permission

The school and community health center sign an agreement that spells out the way the center will operate.

The school-based health center employees work with the school nurse, if there is one. They see medical problems, which frees the nurse up to do more classroom preventative programs, such as nutrition education.

Some nurse practitioners visit more than one school. In Calhoun County, for instance, the nurse practitioner is based at the modern high school, and several days a week, she drives to school-based clinics at elementary schools.

At some schools, the center is open to the public after school or has a separate waiting room for the public.


If you want to start or expand a school-based health center:




The staff of some school-based health centers travel to several schools.  See the slide show to follow nurse practitioner Lisa Coleman and her aide as they travel from Calhoun County High School to a rural elementary school clinic.





Children who attend Charleston’s Mary C. Snow Elementary can be seen by pediatrician Zeina Haidar at no cost to their parents.

  • If you have a center and want to expand its services, Marshall University’s School Health Technical Assistance Center can help:
  • The West Virginia Primary Care Association ( represents the great majority of the state’s federally-funded health centers.  Call them and ask if they can help find a center that would be interested in starting one at your school.  The center does not have to be located in your county.  Lincoln Primary Care runs school-based centers in other counties, for instance.

Here are some creative ways a school-based health center can help the whole student body move more and/or eat smarter.

Using health class, small-group sessions and afterschool clubs, school-based health center staff are finding ways to help all students develop healthy habits.


Oral surgery and dentistry is available at many school-based health centers, in this case by Dr. Am Isble at Mary C. Snow Elementary in Charleston. (Photo courtesy WVSBHA.)

  • Staff of Putnam County centers run by FamilyCare have offered nutrition / physical activity health education classes for fifth-graders.
  • In Fayette County, the school-based health centers operated by New River Health Association team up withWVU Extension to offer the “Organwise” program of nutrition/physical activity program in elementary schools. They organize walking groups in the middle and high schools. Their health outreach workers serve on the wellness committees of all schools
  • In Lincoln County, the school-based center staff team with WVU Extension to offer FIT camps for elementary kids, teaching them nutrition basics and keeping them physically active.
  • Sissonville High School SBHC offers a 10-week afterschool class on improving your own health, run by the center’s physician assistant.

Related Try This page:  Get school kids moving

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