Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 2:09 p.m.
According to a 2009-2010 annual survey by the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research & Policy, nearly one in five kindergartens in Nevada has no form of health insurance.
As founder and medical director of the nonprofit Clinics In Schools, pediatrician Noah Kohn, M.D., is helping to make health care more accessible to underserved children in the state.
“Clinics In Schools in a 501(c)(3) organization that provides free health care to children in two school-based health centers in the valley, Reynaldo Martinez Elementary School in North Las Vegas and Cynthia Cunningham Elementary School in eastern Las Vegas,” said Kohn, a 1995 graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine who completed his pediatric residency at the University of Virginia/Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, and recently closed his own private pediatric practice in Las Vegas to focus on the clinics. “We are the only free, full-time, year-round, school-based health care centers for children in Nevada.”
The clinics were initially built and developed by the Nevada chapter of Communities In Schools – a national, nonprofit, drop-out prevention program – as part of its mission to create an environment where at-risk children can succeed academically. Prior to the creation of Clinics In Schools in 2009, the clinics were managed by another local entity, for which Kohn served as pediatric medical director.
“They backed out of the program with a day-and-a-half notice, so I started the nonprofit, getting some funding through the United Way of Southern Nevada,” Kohn said. “We’re able to see kids who have no health insurance, and for many of them, it’s the first doctor they’ve seen in years. I just saw a patient who is 14, and hasn’t been to the doctor in 10 years.”
Last year, health care professionals, staff and volunteers at the clinics (and its off-site programs) treated 6,294 total patients, of whom 1 percent had private insurance, 3.6 percent had Medicaid or Nevada Check Up, and the remaining 95.4 percent had no insurance of any kind. All services are free for kids younger than 18, and anyone 18 or older who is still enrolled in school.
Besides preventative care, Kohn said education is a major priority of Clinics In Schools.
“Many of the kids’ parents have never been given any health and wellness education, so they have no information on things like how to provide a nutritious diet for their kids, or the appropriate way to take care of kids with colds, or the difference between a viral infection or a bacterial infection,” Kohn said, adding that most common colds are viral in nature, and thus non-responsive to antibiotics.
“But many of the families are from Central America, where antibiotics are available without a prescription, so when kids get sick, that’s what their parents give them, whether they’re expired or not. Nobody has told them that the approach to managing children’s health is different.”