Early-years, primary and secondary education services have been severely affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, school healthcare services have also been affected in terms of accessibility and the flow of services. In this blog, Dr Ahmed Khalafalla looks at the effects of this disruption to education-based health services.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, schools around the world were closed as part of infection control measures to try and stop the spread of the virus. Many schools and education systems adapted by moving to e-learning using distance learning platforms.
The secondary impact of school closures on school healthcare
But school closures had other effects, including disrupting school healthcare services. Around the world, lockdown measures disrupted preschool check-ups, vaccinations, screening programmes and health education activities in schools. This new mode of education also had a significant impact on the psychological and social health of students and their parents. For children with learning disabilities, the impact was even greater as they could not access specialist health and therapeutic services they would normally receive in school.
The challenges of in-person education during the pandemic
As countries made progress in controlling Covid-19, there was a gradual return to normal life activities in many countries. But challenges arose for students as they returned to their schools, some of which were caused by the infection prevention and control measures needed to ensure a safe return to the classroom. Schools needed to strictly monitor the epidemiological situation and carry out risk assessments, and were under a large amount of scrutiny.
Alongside education activities, school health services gradually started to function again, but they also had to make adjustments to ensure they were adhering to infection control measures. Although technology can be used to replace some manual systems, some services still need direct human interaction, especially those related to medical procedures.
Schools are well placed to deliver healthcare services and public health measures
School healthcare services remain vital for public health as they benefit the physical and mental health of students and have an impact on their educational performance. These services therefore have an impact on the future health of societies and influence future generations' views of healthcare quality and patient safety.
I think we need to give more support and attention to school healthcare issues - schools have a unique opportunity to be encouraging and supportive places for students, and a setting for social health interventions and community participation programs. They are well placed to identify and meet the needs of their students, parents and communities.
About the Author
Ahmed Khalafalla is a doctor in family medicine at the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia. He has an interest in healthcare quality, patient safety and healthcare system transformation.