High School Health Care

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A Kaiser Permanente physician is on a quest to care for kids at high-need, low-income schools.

When students at John F. Kennedy High School or Sylvester Greenwood Academy in Richmond, California, need confidential birth control counseling, asthma control, or an urgent sports physical, they can do it all at school.

That’s thanks in large part to Kaiser Permanente’s Cherilyn Brunetti, MD, a Pinole-based pediatrician and director of the Kaiser Permanente Regional Teen Pregnancy Counseling Program, who led the effort to open school-based clinics at Kennedy High in 2012 and Greenwood Academy in 2016.

Dr. Brunetti and her colleagues are exploring the development of a third clinic at the newly built Pinole Valley High School in Pinole, which would be staffed by Kaiser Permanente physicians 3 days a week.

A Community Benefit

“When I was working at Kaiser Richmond, I had a lot of teens who wouldn’t show up for appointments or if they had a follow-up they wouldn’t come in,” said Dr. Brunetti, recalling her inspiration for starting the clinics. “I thought if I could take a clinic from Kaiser into a high-need high school and offer services to the whole school, not just Kaiser patients, it would benefit the community.”

Dr. Lee Villanueva is one of 7 Kaiser Permanente physicians who see high school students in Greenwood Health Center at Sylvester Greenwood Academy in Richmond 5 days a week.

Today, Kaiser Permanente physicians see students at the schools several times a week, eliminating the need for what can be daunting appointment logistics for working parents.

The presence of the clinics at all 3 schools is likely to improve educational outcomes, including increasing grade point average and graduation rates, and decreasing absenteeism and tardiness, according to a February report published in the journal Pediatrics. African American males who used a school health clinic were 3 times as likely to stay in school as their peers who did not use a school-based clinic, according to a Seattle study quoted in the same article.

Approximately 200 students come in for more than 500 appointments a year at Kennedy High School where Brunetti sees patients one day a week. Other providers contracted with Contra Costa County see patients an additional 2 days a week. At Greenwood Academy, 7 Kaiser Permanente physicians see about 100 students each year, 5 days a week.

Empowering Teens

Lee Villanueva, MD, is a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center who has been seeing teens at the Greenwood Academy clinic since it opened in 2016.

“Just having them feel comfortable approaching a doctor or a clinic gives them the idea they can do it on their own, and it feels empowering for a young person to know help is there,” Dr. Villanueva said. “Knowing that they can take control of their health is applicable in a lot of things later in life, and it makes an imprint on their psyche.”

Dr. Brunetti said not only do the students benefit from care they receive at school, but doctors who work in the clinics feel good about providing an essential public service.

“If a student needs follow-up care, I can call them out of class and see them,” she said. “Parents love it because they don’t have to get out of work to take their kid to the doctor. Once we open a clinic and start doing the work, it’s infectious. It’s nice to feel like we are there for the kids.”

Discussion10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    This is awesome! Its a perfect blend of my love of working in health care AND with youth. I hope they open more clinics in schools! I would love to be a part of it!

  2. Avatar

    Really enjoyed the article. Kaiser Permanente is doing things right by bringing health care to neighborhoods and neighbors; critical at this time where the school clerk is stuck doing what used to be a school nurse job! I was always amazed to walk into my kiddo’s school office and see the clerk passing out ice packs (ice cubes in plastic bags) for boo boos while stamping attendance cards and passing out granola bars to kids who didn’t have breakfast! How rewarding for the health care providers that work in the clinic. Small town feel and touch from a big corporation.

  3. Avatar
    Adrienne Aguilar

    I absolutely love everything about this article. I am from Richmond and grew up in Pinole during my high school years and I fully understand how important this is to the community. I hope that this program will make its way to the new Pinole Valley High School campus and many more in the future.

  4. Avatar

    Wow! So great to see this again. My father, Roy Jimenez, was a champion of this in the Santa Clara County. Mainly in San Jose. As an LVN, I volunteered many times for his school-based clinics. Such a wonderful community service. I hope it comes to the Sacramento, Stockton area. I will be first in line to help! Thank you.

    • Avatar

      We need something like this in the Central Valley. …I see kids all the time who could use a clinic in the high school. And as more people move to the Central Valley because of the cost of living in the Bay Area, the need is even greater. I would also be one of the first in line to help.

  5. Avatar

    A few years ago, we lived in Norway for my husband’s military career. I was really impressed to find that the local schools had space set aside not just for routine medical care like health checks & vaccinations but even dental care. I realize we’re a long way from this model, but happy such a group of dedicated Kaiser docs see this as a huge “right.” Building healthy expectations is part of the school experience, no? How do we make more of this this happen?!

  6. Avatar
    Anthonia Abhulimen

    Big thank you to the pediatricians who provide this awesome services to promote public health to especially the young men and women in high school. The students and their parents benefit a great deal. For the students who do not have to take time off their busy schedules to come to the clinics and the parents. This is true love and care.

    I hope that this type of service will extend to other areas serviced by Kaiser Permanente.
    Bravo!!!!!

  7. Avatar

    This is amazing! It fulfills our mission to care for the community! I wish there were something similar out here in Santa Cruz County, I would certainly donate my time!

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