SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 12, 2012

Column: Teen center keeps kids healthy and in school

Salem High School students have access to primary health care right inside their high school building. North Shore Community Health Inc. provides these services at the Salem High School Teen Health Center. Founded in 1977, NSCHI’s mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive primary care that is accessible, culturally and linguistically competent, and community-directed for all residents of Massachusetts’ North Shore and Cape Ann communities regardless of the ability to pay.

NSCHI staff Kacie Fyrberg, NP, and Jessica Teixeira, medical assistant, provide primary care to Salem High students. In addition to keeping kids healthy and in school, a key goal of the staff is to help students recognize their self-worth, both physically and emotionally. The “invincibility” factor of adolescence can lead to decision-making that puts their health, safety and overall well-being at risk. NSCHI staff works to help students realize that they are only given one body, and that body deserves respect by both themselves and others. Beyond this, they also work to provide an important layer to their foundation for a healthy future.

Having a school-based health center is critical to preventing teenagers from falling through the health care cracks. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery, role confusion, social awkwardness and moral challenge, which makes the need for significant support and guidance critical. By creating a safe and comfortable environment for teenagers to be themselves, NSCHI Salem High School Teen Health Center staff uses teachable moments to bridge that gap between youth and adulthood. Students are encouraged to take an active role in their health care by asking questions, making and keeping appointments, self-advocating, and following recommendations. Staff works to foster independence while recognizing the importance of asking for help. Students have various learning styles, and staff accommodates all patients by utilizing verbal, written, visual and hands-on methods when teaching them about health issues.

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