UCSF Works to Improve Lives of Oakland Middle-School Students

Havenscourt Health Center recently opened in Oakland.

The Havenscourt Health Center recently opened in an Oakland middle school to serve youth and families as part of the Elev8 project.

UCSF, the Oakland Unified School District and an array of community-based partners are embarking on a quest to improve the lives of disadvantaged middle-school students, thanks to a $1.75 million grant from The Atlantic Philanthropies.

The three-year award to UCSF’s Elev8 Healthy Students and Families project will allow faculty and students from UCSF’s schools of nursing and dentistry to provide a new, integrated model for delivering primary health and dental care to children at five Oakland middle schools. The project also will increase health education and expose middle school youth and their families to health careers.

“Good health is fundamental to children reaching their full potential in school and in life and so our UCSF Elev8 Healthy Students and Families project dovetails perfectly with the work of our partners,” said lead applicant, Linda Franck, RN, PhD, chair of the Department of Family Health Care Nursing at UCSF.

The program also offers UCSF nursing and dental students important learning opportunities, says co-leader Bill Bird, DDS, MPH, DrPH, a professor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences.

“This project gives us the opportunity to establish a new model for interdisciplinary education of advanced practice nursing and dental students in community-based health care,” Bird said, “and builds a health workforce for the future that is better equipped to work for and meet the health needs of disadvantaged communities.”

Elev8 is a national initiative funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies that brings together schools, families and the community in underserved neighborhoods to help students succeed in school and in life. Work is underway in Chicago, Baltimore and New Mexico. In Oakland, the new grant will augment a previous Elev8 grant that will:

  • Provide coordinated health, mental health and dental services,
  • Engage families to support and advocate for their youth, and
  • Offer academic and mentoring support in extended day, Saturday and summer programs.

 

Alameda County has supported school-based health centers for more than 15 years. Through the UCSF Elev8 project, faculty, nurse practitioner and dental students will enhance and expand primary care services at these existing Federally Qualified Health Center partners and increase preventative services, particularly in the areas of dental care and healthy lifestyles, as well as treat children with chronic health conditions.

Benito Hernandez conducts a Mescalero Apache ritual.

Benito Hernandez, a community health education volunteer, and part Native American, conducts a Mescalero Apache ritual for the new Havenscourt Clinic that entails chanting, singing and burning fresh herbs to cleanse, bring healing energies and bless all its future endeavors.

The youth who will benefit from the new funds are sixth-to-eighth-graders at five Oakland campuses: Roosevelt, Havenscourt, Madison, West Oakland and United for Success. In fall 2010, these schools enrolled 1,639 students, of whom 763 were Latino, 480 were African American, 247 were Asian and 1,259 were economically disadvantaged. In fact, more than 85 percent of students at Elev8 Oakland schools are living in poverty. 

These students face a variety of other challenges: violence, safety concerns, drugs, health problems, and parents with low levels of education and high levels of unemployment. These factors can negatively affect the health and academic achievement of students, according to Elev8 Oakland. The project targets middle-school students because research shows that children who make the transition to high school smoothly are more likely to graduate and go on to and finish college. 

“We’re really excited about the chance to enliven our curriculum and to add a social justice component,” said Naomi Schapiro, RN, PhD, CPNP. “Middle-school students are not on people’s radar. They are at the cusp between being children and adolescents. And they’re going through a lot of physical and developmental changes.”

A 1996 graduate of the School of Nursing’s pediatric nurse practitioner program, Schapiro, now a clinical professor in the Department of Family Health Care Nursing, is the project director for the grant. She has been involved with public health efforts for most of her career. One day a week, Schapiro works as a nurse practitioner at San Lorenzo High School Health Center.

She said both Oakland middle-school students and UCSF students will benefit from participating in the Elev8 project.

“Service learning is a two-way street: our students will be learning health management skills while Elev8 students will be learning about nutrition, puberty and health advocacy,” Schapiro said. “Our students will gain a greater awareness of the social determinants of health, and youth will have a meaningful exposure to health careers. And it’s a perfect match.”

The last main focus of the project is building a sustainable school-based health care model to ensure that the clinics practice to the highest standards and maximize financial support.

Community partners celebrate the opening of Havenscourt Health Center in Oakland

Community partners and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, center, celebrate at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of Havenscourt Health Center in an Oakland middle school on Nov. 9.

“When you’re in the school health movement, even though people love it on so many levels, it doesn’t always mean resources and funding are forthcoming,” said Barbara Raboy, MPH, manager of School-Based Health Centers at La Clínica de La Raza, which works with two of the middle schools, Roosevelt and Havenscourt. “This grant helps relieve some of our budgetary angst. It’s exciting to be part of training new providers who can go out and work in schools later on.”

The community partners in the project include: Safe Passages, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, the Oakland Unified School District, community federally qualified health clinics La Clinica de la Raza, Lifelong Medical Care and Native American Health Center. The UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies is a partner in the evaluation of the project outcomes.

Photos by Susan Merrell

Patricia Yollin contributed to this report.