Health Risks, Race, and Adolescents’ Use of School-Based Health Centers: Policy and Service Recommendations


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

School-based health centers (SBHCs) offering health and behavioral health services in educational settings are an increasingly popular strategy to improve adolescents’ access to care, particularly in lowincome communities of color where youth experience social, economic, and geographic barriers to care that result in high rates of unmet behavioral and physical health needs. Recent studies of SBHCs in high school settings indicate that, relative to their proportion in the general school population, Black and Latino students tend to be overrepresented in these programs, whereas White and Asian youth are underrepresented. One possible explanation is that these patterns reflect differential need for services resulting from higher health risks (e.g., depression, substance use, asthma, or unprotected sexual activity) among Black and Latino youth because of their disadvantaged social location. Growing up in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and exposure to racial discrimination is associated with a host of negative health and psychosocial outcomes in adolescence. In addition, limited availability and quality of health services in low-income communities of color, along with inadequate insurance.

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