JOURNAL ARTICLE

Cost-benefit study of school nursing services

Li Yan Wang, Mary Vernon-Smiley, Mary Ann Gapinski, Marie Desisto, Erin Maughan, Anne Sheetz
JAMA Pediatrics 2014, 168 (7): 642-8
24840710

IMPORTANCE: In recent years, across the United States, many school districts have cut on-site delivery of health services by eliminating or reducing services provided by qualified school nurses. Providing cost-benefit information will help policy makers and decision makers better understand the value of school nursing services.

OBJECTIVE: To conduct a case study of the Massachusetts Essential School Health Services (ESHS) program to demonstrate the cost-benefit of school health services delivered by full-time registered nurses.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Standard cost-benefit analysis methods were used to estimate the costs and benefits of the ESHS program compared with a scenario involving no school nursing service. Data from the ESHS program report and other published studies were used. A total of 477 163 students in 933 Massachusetts ESHS schools in 78 school districts received school health services during the 2009-2010 school year.

INTERVENTIONS: School health services provided by full-time registered nurses.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Costs of nurse staffing and medical supplies incurred by 78 ESHS districts during the 2009-2010 school year were measured as program costs. Program benefits were measured as savings in medical procedure costs, teachers' productivity loss costs associated with addressing student health issues, and parents' productivity loss costs associated with student early dismissal and medication administration. Net benefits and benefit-cost ratio were calculated. All costs and benefits were in 2009 US dollars.

RESULTS: During the 2009-2010 school year, at a cost of $79.0 million, the ESHS program prevented an estimated $20.0 million in medical care costs, $28.1 million in parents' productivity loss, and $129.1 million in teachers' productivity loss. As a result, the program generated a net benefit of $98.2 million to society. For every dollar invested in the program, society would gain $2.20. Eighty-nine percent of simulation trials resulted in a net benefit.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: The results of this study demonstrated that school nursing services provided in the Massachusetts ESHS schools were a cost-beneficial investment of public money, warranting careful consideration by policy makers and decision makers when resource allocation decisions are made about school nursing positions.

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