TROY – Regina Smith, FNP, isn’t ready to call Montgomery County’s student diabetes problem an epidemic – yet, but she acknowledges that diabetes is a concern for children in Montgomery County Schools.
As the family nurse practitioner for the FirstHealth Montgomery School Health Centers, Smith sees lots of kids who are overweight and obese and hears about others from school nurses. She also hears a lot about children whose weight and high body mass index will likely contribute to their getting diabetes – if they haven’t already.
“Although the number of diabetics is relatively small, the numbers are increasing every day,” Smith says. “We’ve just gotten notice of two new Type 2 diabetics, which is most certainly related to the childhood obesity epidemic that continues to be such a challenge in Montgomery County.”
In other words, if obesity has already reached an epidemic level in Montgomery County’s student population, a diabetes epidemic could also be looming. Recognizing that possibility, the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation will direct the proceeds from its upcoming Spring Event to FirstHealth’s Kids in Crisis Fund to help offset the cost of diabetes supplies and education for students.
As in years past, the 2016 fundraiser will coincide with the running of the Kentucky Derby – this year, on Saturday, May 7. Activities will begin at 5:30 p.m., with the opening of the betting window, and continue until 10 p.m. at Flashbacks from the Ford Place in Mt. Gilead. Tickets are $60 per person for an evening that will include cocktails with heavy hors d’oeuvres, live music from House Call, a Ladies’ Hat Contest, and silent and live auctions – all to support the diabetes initiative.
The reasons are compelling.
According to Smith, 56 percent of the students who are registered for health care at the Student Health Center at East Middle School are overweight or obese. The number is 47 percent for the West Middle School location. This is in a county where both the adult diabetes age-adjusted mortality rate (at 31.8 percent) and the adult diabetes prevalence rate (at 14.8 percent) top state numbers (22.2 percent and 11.4 percent, respectively).
“Our Health Center numbers are staggering, as many of these students are pre-diabetic, or possibly already diabetic, but just have not been diagnosed,” Smith says. “In regards to the current students who are either Type 1 or 2, lead school nurse Brenda DeBerry says it is very challenging for the students, families, school nurses and designated school staff who are not medical but have been trained to care for these students to help these students manage their diabetes in the best way possible.”
The Spring Event contribution will help address a wide range of concerns, according to Melissa Herman, R.D., LDN, CDE, a certified diabetes educator with FirstHealth Diabetes & Nutrition Education.
“We are aiming to build stronger resources to support parents, students and school personnel through education and support as well as the ability to track and communicate changes in care in real-time with students, school nurses and physicians regarding diabetes management,” she says. “The ultimate goal is to improve overall care and outcomes for these kids who are living with such a challenging disease.”
Focus groups and educational programs on relevant topics will help parents, students and school nurses better understand some of the barriers involved with managing diabetes and provide access to diabetes training that will help improve their knowledge of the disease.
Disadvantaged students will also get glucose monitoring technology. “We hope to develop emergency kits and supply closets that will likely contain meter supplies such as lancets, strips, possibly insulin or medications, snacks or anything else deemed pertinent to helping these kids manage their disease more successfully,” Herman says.
According to Smith, the school nurses and the School Health Center staff are very excited about the proposed pediatric diabetes project.
“It will be a win-win for everybody involved,” she says.
Personal Items Are Needed, Too
Last fall, FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation Board member Kerry Hensley and Montgomery Memorial Hospital President Beth Walker met with representatives of Montgomery County Schools – administrators, school nurses, counselors and personnel from the FirstHealth Montgomery School Health Centers – to get information about the needs of children in Montgomery County Schools.
“After some discussion, it became pretty clear that, in addition to needs associated with diabetic students, there is a system-need for hygiene items,” Hensley says. “The counselors and school nurses shared several stories of children who wore soiled clothing, whose shoes were too small, who needed to bathe, or had no tooth brush, shampoo, comb or deodorant.”
Hensley and Walker took this information to the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation, which will direct some of the proceeds (in addition to the diabetes program outlined in the accompanying story) from its 2016 Spring Event toward funding a “supply closet” at each school. Each area will be stocked with hygiene items, personal grooming items and clothing as well as school supplies.
A survey of each school helped determine the specific needs, and the school system has committed to designating a staff member to oversee the supply distribution in designated space at each school.
WHAT: FirstHealth Montgomery Spring Event to be held in conjunction with the running of the 2016 Kentucky Derby
When: Saturday, May 7, 5:30-10 p.m.
Where: Flashbacks from the Ford Place, Mt. Gilead
Why: To support the Kids in Crisis Fund with a focus on diabetes supplies, support and education for children in Montgomery County Schools. A portion of the proceeds will also support a “supply closet” at each school that will be stocked with personal hygiene items.
Tickets are $60 each. To make a reservation, call Jamie Lariviere at 571-5024.