When thinking about issues facing young people today, the first that come to my mind are education, jobs, and traffic safety. It’s easy to forget how important access to affordable health care can be on getting a quality education, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sat down with students to discuss health care and its importance. Duncan heard from students who are part of the School Based Health Alliance National Youth Advisory Council (SBHANYC) and Young Invincibles, two organizations working to promote accessibility to affordable health care for students.
Jhana Parikh, a high school junior from Raleigh, N.C., told Duncan that her school did not have a school-based health center, leading her to advocate for the creation of an on-campus center for her peers. Parikh believed that it was necessary to have a safe and secure health facility in their community, which prompted her to take action.
Another student shared her motivation for becoming involved in healthcare advocacy, explaining that when her father became sick, her family did not have access to affordable health care. She saw first-hand how healthcare costs can drag a family into debt.
A common theme throughout the discussion was how personal this issue is to each of these students. They’ve overcome a great deal of adversity and are now working to make sure others do not face the same challenges they did, or at a minimum have the tools to overcome them.
One of the lesser-known provisions of the Affordable Care Act is construction money for school-based health centers. This is a big step in ensuring students have access to health care, but one member of SBHANYC believes schools still need additional money for operational costs of the health centers. Towards the end of the dialogue, a student asked Secretary Duncan if he would support a $50 million line item in the FY 2015 budget to help cover operational costs for these school-based health centers. The Secretary understood that for a lot of low income students, the school-based health centers are extremely vital in providing basic medical supports.
At the end of the meeting, students were interested and excited to collaborate with each other to share their passion for high quality affordable healthcare for all students.
Learn more about school-based health centers.
Sam Ryan is special assistant and youth liaison at the U.S. Department of Education