School-based health centers (SBHCs) have been suggested as possible patient-centered medical homes. Our objectives were to determine, in a low-income, urban population, adolescents’ reasons for visiting SBHCs and the value parents place on SBHC services, and adolescents’ and parents’ assessment of how well SBHCs fulfill criteria for a medical home as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


A cross-sectional, mailed survey of a random sample of 495 adolescent SBHC users and 497 parents of SBHC users from 10 SBHCs in Denver, CO from May to October 2012. Eligible adolescents were registered in an SBHC with ≥1 visit during the 2011 to 2012 school year.


Response rates were 40% (198/495) among adolescents and 36% (181/497) among parents. The top 3 reasons for visits were for illness (78%), vaccines (69%), and sexual health education (63%). Factors reported as very important by >75% of parents in the decision to enroll their adolescent in an SBHC included clinic offering sick or injury visits, sports physicals, and vaccinations. More than 70% of adolescents gave favorable responses (always or usually, excellent or good) to questions about American Academy of Pediatrics medical home criteria (accessibility, continuity, comprehensiveness, family-centeredness, coordination, and compassion). Most parents (83%) reported that they could always or usually trust the SBHC provider to take good care of their child; 82% were satisfied with provider-to-provider communication.


In a low-income urban population, SBHCs met criteria of a medical home from adolescents’ and parents’ perspectives. Policymakers and communities should recognize that SBHCs play an important role in the medical community, especially for underserved adolescents.

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