Kahuku Health Center Handy To Hundreds Of Campus Patients

Health aide Margaret Iloa (left) and chief operations officer Oreta Tupola at the school health center's reception area. Photo from Jorene Barut.

Health aide Margaret Iloa (left) and chief operations officer Oreta Tupola at the school health center’s reception area. Photo from Jorene Barut.

Editor’s note: DOE Windward District communications specialist Jorene Barut contributed to this progress report on Kahuku’s campus-based health center.

Kahuku High and Intermediate houses Hawaii’s only complete school-based health center, which has been treating its 1,879 students exclusively since last August for acute illnesses and chronic conditions, along with sports physicals, and dental, hearing and vision screenings.

Run in partnership with the nonprofit Koolauloa Health Center and its staff – after a decade of planning – the school boasts a unique, weekday service funded by a $500,000 federal grant and state money.

“Kids face so many barriers, and having this center on campus helps them stay in class and focused,” said Oreta Tupola, chief operations officer and a trained social worker for Koolauloa Health Center. “It’s comforting to know that there are medical professionals here to ensure that students receive the help they need because it can take a long time for an ambulance to arrive at our location.”

The former school health room was transformed into a 900-square-foot clinic that now offers a reception area, two medical exam rooms, two dental exam rooms and space for school health aide Margaret Iloa. All health plans except Kaiser apply, and no student is turned away because of an inability to pay. Parental consent is required before children can receive services.

On average, 35 students seek help at the center daily, Iloa said. Dental services include cleanings, X-rays, fillings and fluoride treatments. Before KHC opened, she said there were few dentists’ offices within the 30-mile stretch from Shark’s Cove to Kualoa, and sick or injured teens had to leave campus. They would miss instructional time while their parents lost work hours.

Now there’s on-site care for serious and ongoing conditions such as infections, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. The center also does vaccinations, flu shots, well-child checks and counseling for emotional support, suicide prevention, stress management, etc., The center also promotes healthy lifestyles and runs workshops on concussion management training for athletes.

Speaking of sports: “Team moms started preparing healthier recipes like baked chicken instead of serving athletes fried chicken,” noted head football coach Reggie Torres. They also switched snacks, going from high-sugar and salt to heart-healthy alternatives.

Although appointments are encouraged, Tupola said walk-ins are what keep the staff busy. Asthma attacks, headaches and colds requiring a prescription are commonly treated.

The original Koolauloa Community Health and Wellness Center opened in 2004 to bring basic care to the rural area. It also operates two community wellness clinics – at Hauula Kai Shopping Center and near Kahuku Medical Center.

Tupola said they hope to expand service to school faculty and are working to complete funding for a dental van. Staff sometimes must double book for dental appointments, she noted, “especially if a student has a test that day.”