Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stop School Health Emergencies Before They Start

(Salt Lake City, UT) – Once the excitement of a new school year fades, many Utah families face the anxiety that comes with dealing with their children’s chronic health problems.

Utah County mom Andrea Jensen understands how critical it is to work with your child’s teachers and school nurse to properly manage their health problems in a school setting. She and her three children all have asthma. In the 11 years since her children were diagnosed, they have been hospitalized a combined total of 12 times.

“It’s vital that parents tell their child’s teachers and school nurse what triggers their asthma, how to deal with an asthma attack, where their inhaler is, and how to use it,” said Jensen. “Every year we fill out an asthma action plan and self-medication form and give it to the school so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. My kids’ lives depend on it.”

Diabetes, food allergies, seizure disorders, mental health illnesses, school-related injuries, and immunizations are just some of the other health issues parents and students deal with.

Alexandra Davis, School Nurse Consultant with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), emphasizes that parents and school nurses must work together to keep students healthy. “In Utah we have an average of one school nurse for every 5,000 students. School nurses do their best with the limited resources they have, but depend on parents to inform them of any health concerns their child may have,” said Davis.

The UDOH encourages parents to do the following as their children head back to school:
  Talk to your school nurse.  To find your school nurse, visit www.utahschoolnurses.org/HTML/home/districtlinks.html.

  Update your child’s asthma action plan and self-medication form. Utah law allows children to carry their inhaler with them if the proper forms are filled out every year. These forms, along with other tips and free resources, can be downloaded at http://www.health.utah.gov/asthma/schools/backtoschool.html.
  Make sure your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. Proof of immunization is a requirement to attend any school, Head Start, or childcare facility. Immunization requirements can be found at www.immunize-utah.org/provider/school/default.htm.

  Update your child’s Primary Diabetes School Care Plan. This form gives school nurses important information about the types of medications and monitoring needed, symptoms that may occur, and other special care requirements for children with diabetes. The form can be downloaded at http://health.utah.gov/diabetes/formsmain/schlcp_guide.htm.

  Walk or bike with your child to school. Adding physical activity to your child’s routine not only benefits their health, it’s a great way to stay connected to your neighborhood. Utah law requires every elementary, middle, and junior high school to create a Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP) plan. This plan includes maps of the safest walking and biking routes to schools. Find more information at http://www.udot.utah.gov/main/f?p=100:pg:0::::V,T:,1388.

  Ask if your school participates in the Student Injury Reporting System. Tracking student injuries helps schools identify problem areas, eliminate risks for injury (such as repairing broken playground equipment), and develop programs to reduce students' risks for injury. Student injury data and safety tips can be found at http://health.utah.gov/vipp/schoolInjuries/overview.html.
Parents and school administrators can also download the School Health Resources Guide, which provides information on many health-related resources, at www.health.utah.gov/obesity/documents/School%20Health%20Resource%20Guide.pdf.
Media Contacts:
Jenny Johnson
Bureau of Health Promotion
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Alexandra Davis
UDOH School Nurse Consultant
(o) 801-538-6814