A Healthy Back-to-school

Keeping track of my kids' medical and dental appointments--making them, taking the kids to them, filing away the records--sometimes stresses me out. But I'll never complain again after my visit to the big blue bus run by the Children's Health Fund, which is devoted to providing health care for kids who don't have access to it. This mobile medical center was parked on the sidewalk in the South Bronx on a blistering hot day last month, and Parents editors Diane Debrovner, Kara Corridan, and I stopped by.

I'd first learned about the clinic on wheels as we were preparing this story for Parents about how important good medical care is to a child's school success. Inside the cheerful yellow-accented RV is a state-of-the-art two-room medical clinic, complete with a triage area and a nurse's station. In 25 areas across the U.S., including New Orleans, Detroit and Washington, DC, facilities like these provide check ups, vaccinations, and treatment for a range of conditions to kids who have no other access to medical care.

"Our screening starts with 'do you have enough food? Do you have a place to sleep tonight?'" says Delaney Gracy, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer for CHF. If families need either, CHF connects them with social services. Many of the sites where the buses stop are linked with schools, so that care providers can work with school nurses or administrators to help make sure kids get asthma medication, for example. The clinics use a state-of-the-art electronic health records system to store information about their patients, not because it's the latest high-end healthcare fad, but because it makes it possible to track the care of children who are homeless.

The nurse's station inside the bus.

This care helps ensure that kids arrive at school healthy and ready to learn, which is a key focus of the Children's Health Fund. The connection between health and learning goes deep: Vision or hearing problems, poor nutrition, chronic conditions and even lack of sleep can make it difficult for kids to succeed in school and contribute to a cascade of future problems.

If you want to help the CHF make sure more kids get the care they need, visit childrenshealthfund.org to add your voice to the "Every Child a Chance" campaign on the site. And if all this is making you realize your own kids are probably overdue for a back-to-school exam, brush up on the vaccine recommendations for every age and read our advice on how to make the most of your child's checkup here.

Kids who visit the bus get a book to take home.

Kids who visit the bus get a book to take home, a special touch for children who have few possessions.

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