Youth Voices: Tobias Rubel's speech at 2014 SBHC Awareness Day

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Tobias Rubel is the communications director for OSBHA's Statewide Youth Advisory Council. He recently shared this speech at SBHC Awareness Day in Salem on February 26, 2014. Learn more about Tobias and the Statewide Youth Advisory Council.

Who in here is an expert in law? Anyone? No? Okay great. Anyone in here a health care professional? No? Alright. But who in here has been positively impacted by the healthcare provided by health centers in schools? There we go. I ask because you don’t have to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a politician to make a change in your community. Every person in this room is making a positive change simply be coming here today. Every one of you has the merit to speak to your representative about your opinions; it is your constitutional right!

In a recent study, SBHC users are three times more likely to stay in school than their peers who do not use an SBHC and absenteeism decreases by 50 percent. Healthy students perform better and attend class more consistently than unhealthy students. It’s common sense. When we as a community make the decision to invest in healthcare, we invest in education. When we invest in education we invest in our country’s future.

My first awareness day was just last year, when I was a sophomore at Ulysses S. Grant High School. My Youth Advisory Council had been preparing for months for this very day. We had gone over how we would get there, and why we were going, but honestly I had no idea what I was actually doing there. The layout of Awareness Day was overwhelming, and by the time I actually stepped into the room with the legislator I had made an appointment with I had completely forgotten my purpose. The names of the bills I was attempting to inform him about escaped me completely. The smooth lines I ran over in my head came out as jagged sentence fragments. I’m certain my palms had a humidity rating of 99 percent! Fortunately, my legislator happened to be in strong support of the bill we were advocating for, and was very knowledgeable. My fears vanished as we talked casually about the next steps both he and my team should pursue next.

Later today you will be speaking with legislators. You don't need to worry about laws or bills. You don't even need to think about politics. You should go in there and tell them about how school-based health care benefits you, the student.

We can talk all we want about the convenience of not having to leave the school to visit the doctor, and we can talk all we want about the logistics of how the health centers run, but the thing that is most crucial is that access to health care is the most vital service we can provide our youth. It's the foundation on which all other services must be built upon. Why make better schools when we can't even fill the seats with healthy students?

The Oregon School-Based Health Alliance has been an important part of my life for two years now. Not just because I've been able to get my shots at my SBHC, though that is undoubtedly convenient. Not because it’s mere existence has forced me to peer into the healthcare system. Not even because of the skills I've developed and lessons I’ve learned while advocating for healthcare. OSBHA has become and remained so important to me because I see the impact SBHCs make in our community. Health centers in Oregon are not just a convenience, they are a necessity.
Thank you.