An Exciting New Family Centered Program to Help Obese Students Achieve Optimal Health
Students spend a majority of their waking hours at school, so school nurses and physical education teachers are in an ideal position to help students get and stay healthy. So when the opportunity to launch Maryland Student Wellness Action Plans, a program providing specialized services to help obese children improve their health became available, the Harford County Public Schools jumped on board.
The Maryland Student Wellness Action Plans pilot project was started in Maryland in 2014 through funding from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and support from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The idea is to identify elementary students at greatest risk (>95% for weight) and invite them and their families to create a team including primary care providers, school nurses, and school physical education teachers to cooperatively address and support the childs’ health needs. This supportive child and family focused program is designed to improve communication between health providers and school system wellness staff.
To help this project succeed, the Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) has partnered with a number of professional subject matter experts.
Dr. Paul Lomonico, a private pediatrician in the Bel Air area and the Co-Chair of the Pediatrics Department at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center will be an active participant on this project. Dr. Lomonico will work with interested families and help recruiting other pediatricians to develop wellness “prescription” plans for school.
The HCPS is also utilizing the expertise of Mr. Mike Mason, a retired Content Specialist in Physical Education for the Maryland State Department of Education who is currently the program manager.
Within our own ranks, Ms. Ginny Popiolek, Supervisor of Health and Elementary and Middle School Physical Education and Ms. Mary Nasuta, RN Nurse Coordinator in Harford County Public Schools will be working with nurses and physical education teachers throughout the district to promote and support this worthwhile program.
As part of this project, school nurses with provide regular blood pressure screenings, weight measurement, and education about nutrition and the use of food diaries. Our physical education teachers will work to increase physical activity during the school day and work with students to monitor activity using fitness logs.
Schools and families will be utilizing the 5-2-1-Almost None Wellness Resources from Nemours Children’s Hospital in Delaware to help guide behavioral change. This healthy lifestyle plan promotes the daily healthy habits of eating 5 or more fruits and vegetables, watching no more than 2 hours of screen time, getting at least one hour of physical activity daily, and consuming almost none of items such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks that are not 100% fruit juice.
The HCPS is committed to the health of Harford County students and is excited to partner with families on improving the health of children and getting them started on the road to a healthier future.
Mary Nasuta, RN, MS, NCSN is the Nurse Coordinator for Harford County Public Schools. She can be reached at email@example.com.