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Healthcare in Schools

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

In case you missed it, last week nearly 100 students at Toliver Elementary School were offered dental care from a mobile screening program called Big Smiles. All of the students, who had permission from a parent or guardian, were seen for dental checkups and treatments. They went to a temporary dental office at the school, where digital x-rays were taken and teeth cleaning, checkups, and minor restorations were performed.

That was the good news. The bad news is the word “temporary.” That could all change next month when the Danville Board of Education reviews an existing proposal for a Healthy Kids Clinic that will feature both medical and dental health services focused primarily on families with no permanent medical home. The board may also hear from other providers who wanted an opportunity to put together an alternate proposal.

Regardless of the board’s ultimate decision, the winner will be the children at all four Danville schools who are medically underserved for any number of reasons, including insurance (or lack of it), access, transportation, or scheduling. The new program will remove many of the barriers that impact overall health, which has a direct correlation to a child’s ability to learn. The bottom line is that kids can’t learn if their sick or in pain. The Central Office staff and the board are both to be commended for making healthy kids a high priority.

On a different health topic, I happened on some statistics recently from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation—its annual health rankings. Overall, Boyle County ranks 35th in the state. Other counties in Central Kentucky ranked higher than we are include Scott, Woodford, Fayette, and Jessamine. But do we want to compare to the other 119 counties in a state that consistently underperforms, or the leading counties nationwide.

Since baseball season is fast approaching, let’s use the 1962 Philadelphia Phillies as an example. They finished 40 games ahead of the lowly New York Mets. By comparison, that’s great! Only problem is that the Phillies were barely a .500 team and finished 20 games behind the league-leading San Francisco Giants. So, is the comparison more appropriate with arguably one of the worst teams in baseball history, or to shoot for the upper echelon?

If it’s the latter, Boyle County doesn’t fare too well on a number of measures. For example, access to exercise opportunities is 91 percent among the nation’s best, but 62 percent in Boyle County. Uninsured is 11 percent in the highest-rated communities—17 percent here. Children in poverty is 13 percent among leading counties and 24 percent here.

The whole cadre of social and economic factors that influence health are worse in Boyle County than they are in leading counties across the country. Poor physical and mental health days are higher, preventive screenings like mammograms are lower, and believe it or not, the county’s incident rate of sexually transmitted diseases is the fifth highest in Kentucky and four-and-a-half times higher than the nation’s healthiest counties.

Obviously, there is room for our community’s health to improve. And like everything else in society, it starts with our children.

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This article originally appeared in the March 26, 2019 edition of The Advocate-Messenger.

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