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Q&A with Robert Boyd, President of the School-Based Health Alliance

Jan 16, 2020

Robert Boyd, MCRP, MDiv, is the president of the School-Based Health Alliance, an organization that works to improve the health of children and youth by advancing and advocating for school-based health care. Boyd spoke with Interact for Health about the alliance's work and his future vision.

Interact for Health: Could you explain more about the goals and work of the School-Based Health Alliance?

Boyd: The alliance serves and expands school-based health centers and their offerings through working with the school-based health community more broadly.

There are 100,000 K to 12 public schools in America and more than 47,000 are Title 1 eligible, meaning they serve students at the lower ends of the economic scale. Students eligible for Title 1 services benefit most from having easy access to primary care, behavioral health, oral and vision care and nutrition services. We have a moral obligation to provide services to those students and believe that the most efficient way to do so is in the schools.

We also have a key advocacy and policy role in the school-based health space that includes the nurses, counselors and psychologists generally employed by the school districts.

Our goals are focused around expanding the number of high quality school-based health centers in the country. That means using data to identify and share best practices while addressing the human capital issues that limit the growth and operation of the centers.

Interact for Health: You began this role in August 2019. What is your vision for the alliance as you lead the organization into a new chapter of its work?

Boyd: We are the intersection of health care and education. We know that healthy kids learn better. This is our moral calling.

We believe it will take a decade to fully address the needs of all Title 1-eligible schools. We would like to attract major philanthropic funding to help grow the number of SBHCs, expand our capacities in data analytics, build pipelines to attract professionals to serve in schools and support the advocacy efforts necessary to change policies around those efforts.

These are major endeavors that will require our friends in education, health care and public policy to recognize that healthy kids grow up to be healthy adults.

Interact for Health: What lessons have you learned through your work?

Boyd: The alliance turns 25 this year. I serve with the most committed and talented group of professionals that I have ever seen in a small nonprofit. Our organization has 19 employees with over 317 years of experience. The average tenure of our staff within the organization is over six years. Our staff is 90% women and 40% ethnic minority. I have learned that with a high performing team like this, we can accomplish our goals.

Interact for Health: What about your work excites you most?

Boyd: We serve the most vulnerable population: children, and more often than not, poor children. That makes us determined to do our best.

I never fail to be energized by our team. They are smart, passionate about their work, committed to our mission and knowledgeable about their subject areas.  

Interact for Health: What do you see as the future of school-based health?

Boyd: Wow, great question!

There's two ways for me to answer that. First, as a vision of where we are serving every kid in need in every community in America. Second, where the light bulb goes on that every policymaker and philanthropist understands that if kids are in trauma, hungry or ill, they won't learn well.

As a country we are better off when our kids learn and our people are healthy. Simply focusing on expectations that kids will learn without an understanding of the critical role that their physical and mental health play in that process has not been successful. The future is when everyone wakes up and sees the connection between healthy kids and their ability to learn.

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