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Assessing and addressing social determinants of health in school-based health centers in King County, Washington

Gersch V, Garofalo L, Rigel S, Johnson K, Yeun ST, MacDougall E, van Draanen J
Prev Med Rep

Objective: School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) can reduce barriers to accessing care for school-aged children and adolescents. However, current practices related to screening for and responding to social determinants of health (SDOH) in SBHCs are unknown. Our study sought to understand SBHC staff's knowledge related to SDOH, and their screening and referral practices for addressing SDOH.

Methods: This study was conducted with all SBHCs in King County, Washington (n = 30 clinics operated by n = 8 agencies) between January-March 2022. Data were collected using a web-based questionnaire, distributed to all provider and clinical care staff (n = 222) in these SHBCs.

Results: While respondents had strong generalized knowledge regarding SDOH and how they impact health, they were less confident about the specific SDOH impacting the students they serve. Many health limiting and promoting factors are screened for by respondents; however, there was no standardization related to screening and referral practices across SBHCs or agencies. Respondents had suggestions on how to improve screening methodology and ensure that existing practices adequately assess the SDOH impacting student's lives. There was no clearly identified mechanism for making and following up on referrals. Respondents felt that there were either not or only sometimes enough resources available to meet student's needs.

Conclusion: SBHCs advance health and educational outcomes for students, yet SDOH are inconsistently assessed and addressed within SBHCs in King County. Standardizing processes for SDOH assessment and referral can help SBHCs develop practices that are in the best service of equity for their student populations.

Gersch V, Garofalo L, Rigel S, et al. Assessing and addressing social determinants of health in school-based health centers in King County, Washington. Prev Med Rep. 2024;41:102675. DOI:10.1016/j.pmedr.2024.102675. PMID: 38524271

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Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Provider Experience of Care
Health Care Professionals
Social Determinant of Health
Economic Security
Health Care Access
Housing Stability
Study design
Other Study Design