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UTHSC Clinic Program Expands To Provide Health Care to Head Start Parents

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The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio is adding on-site healthcare for thousands of parents whose young children are enrolled in Head Start, thanks to a new $600,000 grant from The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation.

The San Antonio program is considered a model for other cities in South Texas.

The first program at AVANCE’s Head Start Center on Castroville Road offered preventive and primary healthcare services for children up to the age of three, right at their school.

The program has grown since 2007 and now serves about 300 young children. The new funding will add parents’ healthcare to services at that clinic and add two more clinics — one in southwest San Antonio and another in Uvalde.

Dr. Julie Novak, vice dean of the Health Science Center’s School of Nursing, said, for many families, having routine exams right at their child’s school means the difference between healthcare and no healthcare.

“It’s not going to be one of those situations where a parent has to come in and pick up their child and maybe has no transportation, so has to take three buses with two or three children in tow for healthcare. But rather, they’re treated on-site at the school,” said Novak.

The program is considered a model for other communities within the city too. Novak said the uniqueness of the program is twofold. First, it provides a replicable business model with a tapestry of funding sources, and second, it provides integrated on-site healthcare for children and their parents, plus an education component.

“We take them to HEB to help them learn how to choose healthy foods. We work with them on community gardens. We do nutrition classes for groups and also individual nutrition counseling,” she said.

While Head Start provides nutrition and health education for parents during regular school hours — the new money will add a mental health component, and Novak hopes to work out dental care for parents in the future.

The grant is provided by The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation through its “Innovations in Care Program” initiative, which focuses on serving vulnerable populations. The UT Health Science Center program is one of only two in the nation to receive the award.