Reproductive health in school-based health centers: findings from the 1998-99 census of school-based health centers

John S Santelli, Robert J Nystrom, Claire Brindis, Linda Juszczak, Jonathan D Klein, Nancy Bearss, David W Kaplan, Margaret Hudson, John Schlitt
Journal of Adolescent Health 2003, 32 (6): 443-51

PURPOSE: To describe the state of reproductive health services, including access to contraception and health center policies, among school-based health centers (SBHCs) serving adolescents in the United States

METHODS: We examined questionnaire data on provision of reproductive health services from the 1998-99 Census of School-Based Health Centers (response rate 70%). We examined 551 SBHCs in schools with high or middle school grades. We used logistic regression to define factors independently associated with services and policies.

RESULTS: Most SBHCs (76%) were open full-time; over one-half (51%) of centers had opened in the past 4 years. Services provided, either on-site or by referral, included gynecological examinations (95%), pregnancy testing (96%), sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnosis and treatment (95%), Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) counseling (94%), HIV testing (93%), oral contraceptive pills (89%), condoms (88%), Depo-Provera (88%), Norplant (78%), and emergency contraception (77%). Counseling, screening, pregnancy testing, and STD/HIV services were often provided on-site (range 55%-82%); contraception was often provided only by referral (on-site availability = 3%-28%). SBHCs with more provider staffing were more likely to provide services on-site; rural SBHCs and those serving younger grades were less likely to provide these services on-site. Over three-quarters (76%) of SBHCs reported prohibitions about providing contraceptive services on-site; the sources of these prohibitions included school district policy (74%), school policy (30%), state law (13%), and health center policy (12%). While SBHCs generally required parental permission for general health services, many allowed adolescents to access care independently for certain services including STD care (48%) and family planning (40%). Older SBHCs were more likely to allow independent access.

CONCLUSIONS: SBHCs provide a broad range of reproductive health services directly or via referral; however, they often face institutional and logistical barriers to providing recommended reproductive health care.

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