School-Based Outreach: Strategies
Updated: 8.7.06 Printable version
Once you have garnered the support of key leaders within the school community, work with them to design an outreach and enrollment strategy. Following are strategies to consider:
Engage varied members of the school community. School counselors and social workers, coaches, band leaders, aides and allied staff such as bus drivers and food service workers can all assist in outreach efforts.
Create incentives for participation. Find an organization such as a state health plan or community foundation to underwrite your training and outreach efforts by providing mini-grants or other rewards to schools, such as donated computers or tickets to a local sporting event.
Send informational letters. Work with your state's health and education departments to send letters to school personnel, including administrators, principals, teachers, coaches, band directors and school nurses. Download the template letter to School Administrators/Organizations.
Work with school nurses. School nurses can help you determine how to add health insurance questions to mandatory health forms, coordinate special health care coverage sign-up events, directly enroll children in health care coverage programs using the presumptive eligibility option and send home information about health care coverage with sick children. (See below for more information on working with school nurses.)
Work with the School Lunch Program. Include information in packets sent home to parents of children receiving free or reduced-price school lunches or enrolled in summer lunch programs, as most of them will be eligible for coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP. (See below for more information about working with the National School Lunch Program.)
Work with local Head Start or day care programs. Parents prepare even the youngest of children for school. Reach out to your community's day care centers to inform these parents about available low-cost and free health care coverage to help give their kids a healthy start. Find your Head Start regional office.
Present at workshops and seminars for school nurses, teachers, social workers and other educators. Make sure school professionals know about the importance of health care coverage, the details on your state's program and how families can start the enrollment process. If possible, provide them with applications to give parents.
A Special Role for School Nurses
School nurses may be the first and only consistent source of health services for millions of uninsured school-aged children. In the United States, more than 47,000 nurses work in 86,000 public schools and have regular and continuous contact with students and families. School nurses see children when they are in need of medical attention, an optimal time to identify children without health care coverage and help their families obtain benefits.
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Children's Health Coverage Outreach: A Special Role for School Nurses," October 2001.
National School Lunch Program: A Natural Gateway to Enrollment
The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program for public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. Your state's School Lunch Program can be an effective vehicle for identifying children eligible for health care coverage programs and helping them to enroll. Children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals are also likely to qualify for coverage under Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Many school districts attach a flier to the School Lunch application informing families about children's health care coverage and explaining how they can get help applying.
Through federal legislation, the School Lunch Program can now share information from a school lunch application with Medicaid and SCHIP under certain conditions. (Families that do not want to have their information shared have the option to keep their School Lunch application confidential). Sharing such information can help jump-start the children's health care coverage eligibility determination process.
For more information on the rules for sharing data and how the School Lunch application is being used to facilitate children's health care coverage enrollment, see "Enrolling Children in Health Coverage: It Can Start With School Lunch," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Washington, DC (January 2001).
Source: "Involving the School Community in Children's Health Coverage Outreach," October 2001.