CWRU Nursing Students Combat 2 Health Issues in Cleveland’s Schools

Third-year nursing students at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University will organize and implement a major districtwide blood pressure screening and intervention program in the Cleveland Municipal School District.

Taking a further step, the nursing students will also measure and provide interventions to reduce obesity as well as blood pressure in a demonstration project at the Daniel E. Morgan School, 1440 E 92nd St.

The Prentiss Foundation awarded Marilyn Lotas, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the nursing school, a $500,000 grant to launch the health project that addresses this national public health concern.

Lotas will work closely with the Cleveland school’s health department.

David E. Harrison, MSN,RN, director of health and social services with the school district, said with a nationwide obesity epidemic and difficulties accessing health care, this is “a great collaboration with a university and a phenomenal opportunity” to learn ways to lower blood pressures and reduce obesity in school children.

The obesity issue goes beyond the school grounds.

Harrison said it is a culturally sensitive community issue.

The demonstration school offers the district an opportunity to work with students and their families to learn how best to make changes to improve the children’s health.

Over the next five years, nursing students will assist with screening Cleveland Municipal District School students for elevated blood pressures and then work with interventions, such as exercise, eating right and understanding their condition, to combat obesity and elevated blood pressures.

“Untreated elevated blood pressure at any age can cause major damage to the kidneys, vision and the cardiovascular system,” Lotas said.

She added that if children have elevated blood pressures at ages 9 and 10 and it continues untreated, by the time these students reach their 20s, the damage can be irreversible.

Frances Payne Bolton students have been on the forefront of the obesity and high blood pressure issues. Since the nursing students started taking blood pressures in the Cleveland schools in 2002, the numbers have remained elevated.

The additional support from the Prentiss Foundation now puts the entire project in the hands of the nursing students. Supported by faculty, they will come up with a screening program and interventions that the Cleveland schools can afford.

Lotas said the students would have the practical experience of actually planning, organizing, implementing and evaluating a major public health initiative and marshalling the resources to make it happen. At the end of each year, the students will transfer the project to the next class of third-year students. Each group has about $100,000 a year to use to carry out the screenings and interventions.

The planning phase begins this fall with the launch targeted for spring.

Nursing students in the second through fourth years have been trained in the Dreyfus Health Foundation’s “Problem Solving for Better Health” program. The first-year students will be trained in the spring.

The program takes students through the whole spectrum of tackling a health issue from defining it, creating a program and then evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, Lotas said.

“We’ve been reporting high rates of obesity and elevated blood pressures for many years. What has been missing,” Lotas said, “is effective intervention.” The Prentiss grant is one effort to address that.

Lotas added, “We hope to begin to change those numbers with this new project. The issue is complex and change is always difficult but this is a beginning.”

Posted by: Susan Griffith, September 30, 2010 07:26 PM | News Topics: Official Release