Courier staff writer
VALLEY — Youth health assessments in the Valley have provided important data to the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center (RMPRC), and their effort to improve the health status of children is growing.
On Tuesday, RMPRC representative Julie Marshall visited with Valley school superintendents about the Coordinated Health Assessment and Management Program (CHAMP) and asked for a letter of support. The program wants to take its research to the next level with help from the National Institute of Health to study the program’s efficiency and best practices.
“We are seeing a change” Marshall said. “We are getting kids’ health assessments at an age where we can hopefully have some prevention.”
CHAMP assists schools to complete state required health screenings that can alert families of potential health concerns before students begin school. Referrals to health care providers for vision, hearing, oral or other health issues can then be made. CHAMP provides a health fair atmosphere for parents and children incorporating several aspects of healthy lifestyles, and asthma and blood pressure screening.
Marshall said the program was also looking to expand its mental health assessments and outreach, and weight loss programs.
“We want to reduce the stigmas related to mental health,” Marshall said. “We want to normalize the thinking about mental health and give kids the opportunity to talk with a counselor.”
The program has been in the Alamosa School District for four years, the Sangre de Cristo School District for two and the Del Norte School District welcomed the program this year.
“It made the beginning of the year start out better,” said DNSD Superintendent Nathan Smith. “It really went smooth.”
In 2011, a total of 1,361 students (75 percent of those enrolled) in grades K through 8 participated: 1,191 at the ASD and 160 at the SDCSD. Additionally, another 490 of the enrolled 660 high school students participated in screenings, which were optional, but not required (417 at ASD and 73 at SDCSD); 404 immunizations were given to 185 students.
“This data helps identify school resources,” Marshall said. “It gives parents and schools estimates of burdens with good denominators.”
Some superintendents were concerned about the number of volunteers needed to conduct the assessments, but appreciated the reduction in required student paperwork in regards to health status. Another concern was the lack of Spanish speakers available at the assessment sites.
CHAMPS many partners include the school districts; Alamosa County Public Health Department, Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, National Jewish Health, SLV Mental Health Center, Valley Wide Health Systems, SLV Regional Medical Center, SLV Board of Coordinated Educational Services, SLV Area Health Education Center, Adams State University and community members support the program.