For years, the District 5M7 Lions and Lioness clubs have sponsored screenings in health classes at Anoka and Coon Rapids high schools.
The blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) tests not only made the health lessons personal to students, they also served as a way to identify health issues requiring attention.
This turned out to be the case for an AHS sophomore who went through the screening in November.
Mercy & Unity Hospitals’ Wellness Program staff was concerned about the student’s high blood pressure. The student was advised to go home and share the information with his parents.
In a follow-up visit to a physician, the student and his parents learned he has a serious heart condition. The student was born with the condition that had gone undetected until his health screening at AHS.
With an interest in expanding the health screening programs to all high schools, Jeff McGonigal, the associate superintendent of high schools, began a search for funding.
Allina Health System/Mercy & Unity Hospitals came forward with funding and began to screen students in January.
Craig Malm, Allina regional director of community engagement, said the screenings, which cost about $18, will be done once a trimester during the school year.
Parental permission is obtained for all participating students.
“This work is part of our effort to promote health and wellness in the communities we serve, and more specifically a part of our ‘healthy student partnership’ with Anoka Hennepin School District,” Malm said.
“Health promotion and wellness is part of our mission as a health care organization, and we believe that knowledge about one’s own health and what contributes to a healthy life is vital for all individuals and especially high school students.”
Through the exercise, Malm said he hopes students learn the importance of knowing their family history, monitoring their own health, knowing their numbers (screening results), the importance of making healthy lifestyle decisions and signs of when to seek advice or further examination from a health care professional.
“We also believe our screenings expose students to the type of work being done by some health professionals and that indirectly may contribute to thoughts of different career opportunities,” Malm said.
Brenda Link, manager of Mercy & Unity’s Wellness Program, is working with teachers to schedule the screenings at a time when students are studying heart health, cholesterol, healthy eating and exercise.
Since the program kicked off, in addition to BHS they have been back to AHS and CRHS.
Andover and Champlin Park high schools will have screenings during the third trimester.
Although not as an immediate concern as the AHS student’s health condition, the health screening results deserve attention.
Out of the 562 students screened in January and February, up to 24 percent of them had “at risk” screenings, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
In testing students, Link said they are looking for:
• A blood pressure of 120/80 or less.
• A non-fasting blood glucose of less than 139.
• Total cholesterol of less than 170.
• High-density lipoprotein (HDL) (good cholesterol) of 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) for women and 40 mg/dl for men.
• BMI depends on gender and age, though a safe BMI for a child is 16 or 17.
When students were found to have high ranges in any of the tests, this information is sent to their parents or guardians.
Link hopes to expand the program to include a follow up call with parents and guardians of students with at risk test results to discuss preventive care, she said.
Allina staff will also share information about resources for families who do not have insurance.
Discussions are also being held on how school nurses can follow up with students, according to Link.
“We are excited about this,” Link said. “We have some creative ideas coming to the forefront.
“We think other school districts will be interested too but are working to perfect it before we share it with others.”