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Keywords:

  • public health insurance;
  • health policy;
  • uninsured children;
  • public school superintendents

Background: Superintendents' perceptions regarding the effect of health insurance status on academics, the role schools should play in the process of obtaining health insurance, and the benefits/barriers to assisting students in enrolling in health insurance were surveyed. Superintendents' basic knowledge of health insurance, the link between health and learning, and specific school system practices for assisting students were also examined.

Methods: A 4-page questionnaire was sent to a national random sample of public school superintendents using a 4-wave postal mailing.

Results: Only 19% of school districts assessed the health insurance status of students. School districts' assistance in helping enroll students in health insurance was assessed using Stages of Change theory; 36% of superintendents' school districts were in the action or maintenance stages. The schools most often made health insurance materials available to parents (53%). The perceived benefits identified by more than 80% of superintendents were to keep students healthier, reduce the number of students with untreated health problems, reduce school absenteeism, and improvement of students' attention/concentration during school. The 2 most common perceived barriers identified by at least 50% of superintendents were not having enough staff or financial resources.

Conclusions: Most superintendents believed schools should play a role in helping students obtain health insurance, but the specific role was unclear. Three fourths of superintendents indicated overwhelmingly positive beliefs regarding the effects of health insurance status on students' health and academic outcomes. School personnel and public policy makers can use the results to support collaboration in getting students enrolled in health insurance.