Student health issues studiedStudent health took center stage at Monday’s Alexandria School Board meeting. Members learned what the district is doing about students’ vision, hearing, immunizations and their risk for scoliosis.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
Student health took center stage at Monday’s Alexandria School Board meeting.
Members learned what the district is doing about students’ vision, hearing, immunizations and their risk for scoliosis.
The information was contained in a report from Carol Westby, the district’s health services coordinator who retired this year. She included a note to school administrators and school board members thanking them for the opportunity to have her serve as the school district’s nurse for the past 36 years.
“It’s been a wild ride with lots of bumps and turns, but all in all, it was an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” noted Westby. “For that, I’ll be forever grateful.”
The health services report included information about health screenings, including vision, hearing and scoliosis; immunizations; student use of health services; communicable conditions and medications given; asthma and diabetes monitoring; health education; and accident reports.
Vision and hearing
There were 2,583 students in grades K-7 and 10th grade that had vision and hearing screening in the following schools: Lincoln, Woodland, Carlos, Garfield, Miltona and Voyager Elementary Schools, Discovery Middle School and Jefferson High School.
Of those 2,583 students, 164 were referred for vision and 27 were referred for hearing.
Scoliosis is a side-to-side curvature of the spine that also twists or rotates toward the front of the body. This pulls the ribs out of place, making one side of the back higher than the other. It can also change the shape of the breastbone, the report stated.
Because this problem can easily go unnoticed, Minnesota has a school spinal screening program so scoliosis and other possible problems can be found early. The state health department recommends selective screening according to the following guidelines:
•Girls are to be screened in the fall of 5th grade and the spring of 6th grade.
•Screening in no longer recommended for boys.
•The preferred screening method is the scoliometer, used according to instructions.
•Children screened with an angle of trunk rotation (ATR) greater than or equal to 6 degrees are to be referred to their primary care provider. No watch list is recommended for children with an ATR less than 6 degrees.
Prior to being screened, school health professionals gave 5th grade girls a 45-minute session on scoliosis.
There were 170 5th grade girls scanned at all the elementary schools in District 206. There were no referrals.
Last spring was the first spring since Westby began working in District 206 that immunizations weren’t offered to 6th grade students. It was also the first-ever time that the school district offered flu shots for students and staff.
“As I alluded to earlier this school year, the H1N1 novel influenza was quite the ‘disease du jour’ this fall,” Westby noted in her report.
In hopes of preventing an outbreak, the district offered vaccines to students and employees. Students ages 9 and younger received two, while older students and staff members received one.
Here is breakdown of each vaccination: Woodland Elementary – 302; Garfield, Carlos and Miltona Elementary – 166; Lincoln and Voyager Elementary – 404; Lincoln, Miltona and Carlos – 140; Voyager and Woodland – 177; Discovery Middle School – 387; Garfield Elementary and Jefferson High School – 362; staff members – 111.
The total of all H1N1 vaccinations given was 2,049.
In her report, Westby said, “I truly believe the great response we had to getting vaccinated against H1N1 and the seasonal flu made a huge difference in the decline in the number of cases we saw. The expectation was that after the fall epidemic, there would be a second wave and we didn’t get a second round.”
When it comes to communicable diseases, Westby said it is hard to determine actual numbers. The reason is because so many office staff take calls on absences and oftentimes, callers leave messages that only state their child is “sick,” which makes it hard to determine actual numbers.
In addition, most illnesses are reported to the attendance secretary at the middle school and high school level and not the school health professional.
Common conditions are chicken pox, lice, pinkeye and strep throat. Here’s a look at the numbers although they may not be 100 percent accurate (these are totals for all schools in the district):
•Upper respiratory infections – 204.
•Strep throat – 162.
•Chicken pox – 4.
•Impetigo – 10.
•Pinkeye – 54.
•Head lice – 40.
•Influenza – 213, although one school only listed “many.”
•Mononucleosis – 11.
•Pneumonia – 5.
Use of health
In all District 206 schools, there is a school health paraprofessional in each health office who deals with student concerns and complaints. Some of the student visits reflect injuries, including broken bones, head bumps, scrapes, bug bites, etc.
Common conditions typically include colds, sore throats, stomach aches, fevers, eye problems, medications and menstrual cramps.
Here are the total visits for each school: Lincoln – 2,777, Woodland – 1,579, Carlos – 552, Garfield – 610, Miltona – 862, Voyager – 2,144, Discovery – 2,350 and Jefferson – 1,262.