Team Investigates Strategy for Better Health Services in Local Public Schools

Posted: November 10, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Lori Jennings

With growing cultural diversity and new health concerns in public schools, the Fairfax County Health Department decided it needed to revamp its existing public health services in both Fairfax County and Falls Church public schools. The department turned to George Mason’s P.J. Maddox, chair of the Department of Health Administration and Policy, to support the task.

“Good health is a very important precursor to learning,” said Maddox. “Schools recognize that they can’t help kids learn if they’re not healthy.”

Maddox serves as the principal investigator on the project, assisted by doctoral candidate Kae Livsey and graduate research assistant Elizabeth Chester. The team is charged with providing technical consultation and planning support for development of a strategic plan for Fairfax County’s school-based health services through 2015.

To accomplish this task, the researchers are working with an interdisciplinary project steering committee to examine the scope and the adequacy of existing school health program services, while analyzing new needs and public health trends.

“With the growth of the county, we are now finding a much more diverse student body with different health needs,” says Maddox. “Further, we are also now experiencing a higher rate of health problems – like asthma and obesity – that require different services. To this end, we are focused on two broad goals: ensuring an effective school health service program and using county resources wisely.”

Maddox further points to the need to address the primary mission of the school health program and the needs of special student populations, such as those with chronic medical problems and cultural differences, on such issues as communicable diseases and communication barriers.

Maddox and team will work to ensure that the strategic plan will address a broad array of school health program services ranging from health screening and health promotion to those that address special medical needs (such as medical equipment for diabetic students) and disaster and emergency response.

To guide their recommendations, the team is currently analyzing public health trends, Fairfax County health data and school health system data, as well as conducting surveys of key stakeholders to get their perspectives on current and emerging needs and program recommendations.

The Fairfax Health Department hopes to have a draft strategic plan presented in January 2007 and available for broader comment and county planning use by early February.

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