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Baker Institute health scholars launch project to determine health needs of children within HISD

Baker Institute health scholars launch project to determine health needs of children within HISD

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In partnership with Houston Independent School District (HISD), Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy is launching the largest-of-its-kind study to assess the health needs of the district’s 215,000 students, three-quarters of whom are considered economically disadvantaged. These children are at an increased risk of poor health, impaired development and reduced educational success.

Quianta Moore, a scholar in health policy at the Baker Institute, plans to conduct a needs assessment of the physical, social and mental health of children within the district.

“This project is an opportunity to not only determine the health needs of children within HISD, but also to use this data as a representative sample of the needs of children within all of Houston,” said Moore, the project’s principal investigator. “Obtaining this information is the first step toward improving access to health and social services and ultimately improving child health in Houston.”

Assata Richards, director of the Houston-based Sankofa Research Institute, will serve as co-investigator of the first phase of the study, which is supported by Houston Endowment and will begin at the start of the school year.

The three-year study will involve analysis of the approximately 250 schools within HISD. Researchers will survey fourth- to 12th-grade students, school staff and parents via an online questionnaire, hold focus groups and use community-based participatory research to conduct an in-depth survey of a representative sample that includes 70 schools.

Moore said a needs assessment will guide the appropriate allocation of resources and investments into improving child health in Houston and can be used by the HISD board, school administrators and principals to make decisions about nurse staffing and health services within schools.

“A needs assessment is needed to inform and guide health service decisions so that finite dollars can be invested appropriately within our city,” she said. “Moreover, this needs assessment will identify gaps in access to care within neighborhoods and opportunities for increased health care and social services. Overall, this project has the potential to be replicated and impact child health policies within other school districts, cities and statewide.”

Moore’s research focuses on developing empirically informed policies to advance the health of children. Specifically, she focuses on access to care in vulnerable populations through school-based clinics, telehealth and health education. Her most recent work involved identifying and making policy recommendations to address access to HIV prevention for high-risk adolescents.

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