Almost half of Batesville Community School Corp. students, 998, have serious medical conditions, health services director Gayla Vonderheide told trustees Aug. 19 while presenting her annual report. The conditions range from leukemia, brain tumors, diabetes and seizure disorders to cardiac problems, pregnancies, attention deficit and emotional disorders and allergies.
So that they are aware of potential problems, lists are given to applicable employees, including administrators, teachers, support staff and bus drivers.
She detailed three major impacts on students’ well-being. After kids in grades 1-10 were checked, “we continue to see an increase in our students’ blood pressures.” Some take high blood pressure medicine and are followed by physicians. She added, “Calls were made to parents if we had a concern with the student’s blood pressure.”
Heights and weights also were recorded on students in those grades to calculate each youth’s body mass index (BMI). The director noted, “The data does show that we have an obesity/weight problem in our schools. Our percentage is 33 percent at risk and 17 percent obese” in 2012-13. With 6 percent of kids shifting from obese to at risk, “we are getting better, but we have a long way to go.”
Batesville Middle School and Batesville High School PE teachers sent BMI and blood pressure information home to parents. “For some, it shows that the students need to make some changes in their physical activity and eating habits. The student was also to set goals and parents signed this information and returned it to school.” She hopes to give parents at all four schools BMI data this year. “We need to educate on how to develop healthier lifestyles.”
She said, “Diseases riding on the coattails of this epidemic are, most prominently, diabetes, asthma, heart and vascular diseases, joint and muscular problems, high cholesterol, liver and renal disease, and it increases their risk of adult-onset obesity.” She told trustees high schoolers requested more convocations on good nutrition. “We think healthy students make better learners.”
According to Vonderheide, “Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalizations and is the leading cause of school absences. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have asthma.”
The number of students seen in the four school clinics, 24,718, declined slightly during the past year. According to Vonderheide, “We give a large number of prescription medications daily, which include, but are not limited to, attention deficit disorder medications such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall.” Insulin is dispensed at various times throughout the day to 12 insulin-dependent diabetics. Inhalers and nebulizer treatments are also given to students with asthma and respiratory problems. Catheterizations and tube feedings are also being done.
The school-based counseling program through Community Mental Health Center, which benefitted 10 students at three schools, “was well received by staff, students and parents. Our hope is to continue this program at all four schools.”
The report noted, “Due to the current economic situation of many of our families, it is not uncommon for students to stop in the clinics before school starts, because a parent calls or even brings the child in to ask the nurse what she thinks in regards to an accident the student had the night before or the child just doesn’t feel well. We are now being asked if the child should go to the doctor or be seen by the emergency room. The parents will often tell us they just can’t afford going to the doctor.”
Five types of screenings help detect medical problems.
The Indiana State Board of Health requires regular vision and hearing screenings. Scoliosis checks are not mandatory, “but we continue to do the screening because about 10 percent of our students are being referred for further medical evaluation.”
Vision screenings are done in kindergarten and grades 1, 3, 5 and 8 and also for new students and those requested by parents, teachers and physicians by two local optometrists, Dr. John Wade and Dr. Greg Wilson, who volunteer. Referrals are sent to parents of students whose vision screening is questionable. According to Vonderheide, “We have found that some students’ vision needs are often neglected for financial reasons.” The Batesville Lions Club and other outside groups are willing to help with costs of exams and glasses when needed. Out of 800 screened students, 41 were referred and 10 needed assistance with obtaining glasses.
Hearing screenings are done in grades 1, 4, 7 and 10 and also for new students and by request. The school’s speech and hearing therapist helps.
Scoliosis screenings are performed in grades 4-9. Referrals are made when necessary and often end in treatments ranging from exercises and braces to surgical interventions. “We do a second screening on the students who fail the first screening” with the help of a Greater Cincinnati Spinal Deformity Center nurse. Twenty-two students were referred last year.
A dentist examined 54 students at BPS, BIS and BMS. X-rays and cleanings also were done. Six students needed urgent care and 20 cavities were discovered. “We are going to continue this program and hope more of our students take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.
About 1,022 students were checked for head lice at BPS and BIS a year ago and BMS and BHS kids were screened as needed. Fifty-one visited clinics due to lice as well with the majority at BPS. “A lot of teaching and education goes into this area.”
To keep employees healthy, Walk Across America is continuing. “We will walk 10 weeks in the fall and 10 weeks in the spring.” Last year the central office won the building competition. A third staff health fair occurred in January. “We offered a skin cancer screening for staff and family, performed by Southeastern Indiana Dermatology. Eighty staff and family members were screened. Numerous referrals were made and many had significant findings.”
Vonderheide listed 17 health goals for the 2013-14 school year. Among them:
• Continue to develop an asthma program for all schools. Educate students and staff on what the triggers are and what to do.
• Develop a skin care program. Educate students, staff and parents on the importance of using sun block and keeping the skin healthy.
• Continue to explore with the cafeteria staff healthier choices for the lunch lines through training and education. She wants to form a cafeteria committee with teachers, students and the four cafeteria managers to obtain feedback.
• Continue to explore with Southeastern Indiana YMCA the possibility of after school intramural sports, such as volleyball, basketball or soccer, for those not involved in organized sports.
• Plan an evening community health fair for families of grades K-8 students, perhaps partnering with the Ivy Tech Community College Nursing School.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
Who helps keep children healthy? • The director notes, "As our population continues to grow, we are staying close to the recommendation of the National Association of School Nurses" of one school nurse to every 750 students. "We are below the recommendation, but we have found our current staffing to be adequate." As director, Vonderheide, based at BMS, is responsible for the health management of all four schools. The Health Services Department also consists of BPS nurse Laurie Krieg, LPN; BPS child-specific RN Lisa Fitzpatrick; BIS clinic aide Terrica Moorman; BMS clinic aide Barb Greene; and BHS clinic aide and clerk Amy Liter. • Last year six BHS mentor students during the first semester and seven during the second semester spent 30 minutes on Mondays with health workers, rotating from school to school to get a flavor of all age groups and issues. "They are really helpful. They like to see the kids, do temperatures, clerical jobs." They also created health-oriented bulletin boards and helped with screenings.