School physicians?

School signIn a policy statement just released, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that every American school district should have a designated “school physician” to help oversee and coordinate school health programs.

Sure, you may be thinking right about now, in a perfect world that would be great. But most schools can’t afford nurses now…who’s going to pay for doctors?

The statement isn’t so much about doctors getting paid to provide direct services to students as it is about encouraging pediatricians to volunteer as advisors, school board members, team physicians, and such. Larger districts may be able to afford a paid position, but increased involvement by pediatricians in any role can provide valuable service to school districts, and perhaps even save them some money:

School physicians not only bring value to the quality of health services but also may provide a cost savings to districts, with decreased liability from physician oversight of sound school health programs. For example, school physician–coordinated concussion management programs, established climate standards for outdoor activity, or guided anaphylaxis management protocols can potentially save lives, reduce morbidity, improve outcomes, and prevent potential costly litigation against school districts.

A school physician with intimate knowledge of a district and community could be a big help in coordinating health programs in preparation for, and in the wake of disasters, both natural (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.)  and man-made (Newtown).

I’ve been involved with a variety of school health programs over the years, and it’s very rewarding. It’s nice to see the AAP encourage this in a more formal way.

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