Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

At Washington Prep High School, St. John's opens second school-based clinic in 8 days

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Arwen Nicks/KPCC

St. John’s Well Child and Family Center has locations throughout South Los Angeles. That includes five school-based wellness centers, including the one it just opened on Thursday at Washington Preparatory High School in Westmont.

A South Los Angeles community health clinic celebrated the grand opening of a school-based wellness center at Washington Preparatory High School on Thursday morning, touting a facility expected to serve thousands.

Representatives from St. John's Well Child and Family Center and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) cut the ribbon on Washington Preparatory High School Wellness Center, which will provide free or low-cost medical, dental and mental health services to its students as well as residents of the surrounding community.

It's only been eight days since St. John's officially opened its last school-based wellness center – last Wednesday was the grand opening of Dominguez High School Health Center in Compton.

At that event, St. John's Chief of Policy and Support Services Nomsa Khalfani said school-based clinics were a strategic way to provide health care access, particularly in low-income communities. They also help with academics.

"It's really about ensuring easy access, quality care and making sure students are well so they can appropriately function in the classroom," she said at last week's event.

The clinic, which is one of five school-based centers operated by St. John's, will also offer other support services, including health education and assistance with getting enrolled in a health insurance plan. It will be open twice a week – Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. – with plans to eventually expand its schedule.

South L.A.'s health problems are exacerbated by a widespread lack of access to care. The entire region of South Los Angeles has an adult obesity rate of about 1 in 3. In 2007, when county health officials looked at Westmont, where Washington Prep is located, they found a rate even higher than that – more than 35 percent of adults were obese. The same was true for about 23 percent of children.

Another recent county report found that about 12 percent of adults in South L.A. are diabetic.

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