School-based health care: improving academic outcomes for inner-city children—a prospective cohort quasi-experimental study
Rasiah S., Jüni P., Sgro MD., Thorpe KE., Maguire J., Freeman SJ.
Background: We examined whether a school-based health center model improved academic achievement compared to usual care. Methods: This was a quasi-experimental prospective cohort study. The primary outcome was an academic achievement. In addition, we analyzed sociodemographic characteristics and their relationship to academic achievement, and the wait time for a developmental assessment. Results: The differences in change of grades over time (from 2016/2017 to 2018/2019) were small for reading (–0.83, 95% CI –3.48, 1.82, p = 0.51), writing (–1.11, 95% CI –3.25, 1.03, p = 0.28), and math (0.06, 95% CI –3.08, 2.94, p = 0.98). The experimental arm’s average wait time for developmental assessment was 3.4 months. Conclusion: In this small, quasi-experimental prospective cohort study, we did not find evidence that our SBHC model improved academic achievement; however, the wait time at the SBHCs was considerably less than the provincial wait time for a developmental assessment. Trial registration: NCT04540003. Impact: This study describes a unique and innovative school-based health center model.Our findings support the benefits of school-based health centers in diagnosing and treating children with developmental and mental health disorders for disadvantaged communities.This study did not find an improvement in academic achievement for school-based health center users.This study found that the wait time to developmental assessment was shorter for school-based health center users compared to the wait time reported in the community.Pandemic-associated school disruptions have highlighted the importance of accessible school-based health services for children requiring mental health and developmental assessments and care.