Teachers for Healthy Kids (THK) a non-profit 501c 3 has been involved at the nexus of education and health within the school environment for over 20 years. It has worked with over 135 school districts in California and hosts the LEA Workgroup made up of over 260 personnel from LEAs and educational institutions in the state. The project, originally funded by The California Endowment original mission was enrollment of students and their families into low or no-cost health insurance, in partnership with California Teachers Association and the California Association of Health Plans. Recognizing that enrollment and retention in benefits also meant accessing services, THK evolved to work directly with LEAs and the state to improve school based reimbursement programs to sustain efforts within schools. THK maintains close ties to the school community working internally in the schools to involve their personnel in outreach and enrollment efforts as well as linking districts to outside agencies supporting their efforts. THK hosts regular zoom calls for the LEA Workgroup.
THK has worked with educators and health and education policy makers, with education organizations and LEAs on policy issues such as the expansion of Medi-Cal within schools, creating a restructure of California Department of Education to create a focal point for health programs through an Office of School Health within the Department, reforming the audit and investigations process and streamlining the LEA BOP and S-MAA programs. It sponsors monthly educational webinars and workshops on topics of interest on school- based health issues that are attended by 60-100 participants from school districts throughout the state. THK has also sponsored programs with individual districts for both parents and staff on a variety of issues using health plans as presenters such as Medi-Cal 101 a program for parents to learn more on how to access services through Medi-Cal. Last year THK worked with districts on COVID related issues such as helping parents particularly the undocumented to obtain resources. THK has coordinated educational programs with San Diego Unified, San Juan Unified and LA Unified School Districts. We are part of the Healthy Schools Campaign and represent California along with the Department of Health Care Services and Department of Education at national gatherings for states implementing the expansion of Medicaid in schools. THK has coordinated a federal grant to a County Office of Education and large urban school district to implement data management as a strategy for outreach and enrollment of students in Medi-Cal, a foundation grant to provide laptops and technology to eleven districts so they could adopt new procedures to ensure retention in Medi-Cal. THK formed the LEA Workgroup in 2011, to help ensure that local districts had a voice in DHCS Medi-Cal reimbursement programs. The Workgroup has a steering committee from twelve diverse LEAs from urban, rural and suburban districts from across the state. It has organized workgroups on specific topics such as immunizations within schools, audit issues, data sharing, deferrals and provided policy memos based on LEA input to DHCS. As a result, DHCS has implemented policies that prior to LEA Workgroup involvement either were not clear or did not adequately address the needs of LEAs. The THK board is composed of educators, school health personnel and health plan representatives with a deep understanding of health issues in the schools. Here are examples of working with health plans, schools and communities:
THK surveyed school districts statewide on issues that would impact the State Plan Amendment proposal, conducting workshops in four areas of the state that were shared with DHCS
Created a workgroup of districts on the S-MAA deferral of funds that provided proposals to limit the impact on LEAs
Working with district representatives, California School Nurses Organization to implement the provision of vaccinations by school districts under the State Plan Amendment
Interceded with DHCS to review audit findings for specific school districts such as Salinas Unified that prevented the collapse of the program. Negotiated with CalOptima Health Plan and Orange County districts on special education students receiving services through the health plan
Created focus groups in Sacramento and Los Angeles and provided a report to the MHSOAC on the perspective of school providers on the provision of mental health services at the school site that was incorporated in the final wellness in school reports.
Interceded with DHCS on numerous topics concerning LEA BOP programs including third party billing, identification of students served in case records required for audits, simplification of program requirements around the provision of vaccinations.
Teachers for Healthy Kids, a project of the California Teachers Association, was created in order to address the link between student health and learning though CTA member education and local association, district, and state interventions. The project operates under the CTA Community Outreach/Human Rights umbrella and consists of four programs, each of which addresses different health issues.
THK Health Outreach: This original project was first implement in 2002 through general funding by The California Endowment. THK works with school districts, local teacher associations, and health plan partners to promote the enrollment of eligible children in no or low cost health insurance programs. The project is now funded through the California Association of Health Plans with support from various health plan partners.
Healthy Air, Healthy Kids: Started in 2006, this California Endowment education and outreach program aims to improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers in schools through school site interventions and district policy changes.
Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds: This California Endowment funded expansion of THK began in 2008 to support CTA member education and outreach on nutrition and physical education and activity issues. The program aims to involve local associations in supporting the implementation of district Wellness Policies and involve CTA in state policy issues.
The goal of Teachers for Healthy Kids is to address the health and learning issues facing students through the valued resources that teachers and the school community offer. The projects have been designed for teachers and respect their unique needs and existing workload. Project objectives are easy to implement, require little time commitment, and utilize project resources, while producing significant positive results. The health coverage outreach project is designed to partner teachers and school districts with health plan representatives to identify uninsured students and enroll those eligible in no or low cost health insurance programs. The Healthy Air, Healthy Kids project provides teachers with resources and information on how they can improve the indoor air quality of their classrooms and how local associations can influence district policy change. The Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds project will provide teachers with educational resources on nutrition and physical activity/physical education.
In addition to school outreach, Teachers for Healthy Kids also is involved with policy at the state and national levels. From attending hearings in Sacramento to participating in working groups to providing guidance on relevant legislation, THK has been involved with policy issues around health coverage, indoor air quality, and nutrition and physical activity. Some examples of THK’s most recent activity is the work on the Medicaid Administrative Activities billing, which brings in millions of federal dollars for California schools, and the California Clean and Healthy Schools Act, which requires schools to use green cleaning products, where economically feasible. To learn more about the policy efforts, please see our policy information page.