School-based health centers

Program basics

  • Provide K–12 students with various health care services on school premises or at offsite centers linked to schools
  • In underserved communities, serve as strategic “catchment areas” for students who would not have traditionally have access to health care
  • Care often provided by teams of nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians
  • Reproductive health services may be provided at middle and high schools (dependent on district policy and state law)
  • Often manage chronic illnesses
  • Most patients are insured by Medicaid or are without insurance

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)


Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

All school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not applicable

Outcomes and impact

  • Improved health outcomes
  • Increased academic achievement
  • Improved quality of care, fewer emergency room visits, reduced hospital utilization, and increased immunization rates
  • Improved student health behavior and possible reduction in barriers to accessing mental health services
  • Reduced absenteeism and dropout rates and increased graduation rates and connectedness to school
  • Increased access to care for minority students, students with disabilities, and underserved urban youth

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Programs that focus on prevention as well as physical and mental health care are likely to have better outcomes
  • Routine counseling for individuals and groups strengthen preventative measures, keeping children healthy and in schools
  • Partnerships with local health care facilities and community health care workers are needed to ensure follow-up and continuity of treatment

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