Coordinated Youth Initiative Continues to Positively Impact Students
The Winter Park Health Foundation’s (WPHF) legacy program, the Coordinated Youth Initiative (CYI), a collection of school-based physical and emotional health and wellbeing services, continues to provide the critical resources needed to positively impact children and youth attending the 12 public schools serving Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville (known as the Winter Park Consortium (WPC). This past school year – as with the past 15 years – nurses, counselors and Healthy School Team leaders formed a strong safety net of support that tended illnesses and injuries to keep students in school and learning, counseled students on how to cope with life’s stressors, and encouraged and provided concrete ways for students, staff and parents to achieve their most healthy lives. The CYI services and model continues to be at the forefront of how we view healthcare delivery and creating a culture of health and wellness in the lives of students, families and staff.
During the 2015-16 school year, 1,110 students were enrolled in the Community Help & Intervention in Life’s Lessons (CHILL) program. CHILL is a free counseling program for students of all ages in the 12 WPC schools who need help with issues such as grief and loss, low self-esteem, anger management and depression. CHILL Counselors focus on prevention and early intervention. Of the 1,110 students who received counseling this past school year, 720 were elementary students, 175 middle students and 215 high school students. As in recent years, parents were the most common source of referrals to the program for their children, although the number of students self-referring in high school is on the rise. This past school year, the top reasons for counseling sessions were helping students to deal with feelings, such as anxiety and depression, and developing coping skills. In high school, students have begun to self-refer as they realize they are having difficulty connecting with others face-to-face and making friends – a likely outcome from the steady increase in online interactions through social media. The number of services the CHILL counselors provided during 2015-16 held steady from the previous school year with a slight increase in the number of family counseling sessions. CHILL counselors also present on relevant topics facing the school and family. During the 2015-16 school year, counselors in the 12 schools made 538 presentations to students, 55 to teachers and 50 to parents. The trends in terms of referrals and types of counseling offered are expected to continue in the 2016-17 school year. As part of a larger grant from the Aetna Foundation, all CHILL counselors will receive additional training in mindfulness and meditation, the learnings of which will be passed on to students.
The School Nursing Initiative (SNI), which places a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN) in each of the 12 WPC schools, experienced a rise in clinic visits by approximately 9,000 visits, or by 20%, during the 2015-16 school year compared to the year prior. The number of recorded clinic visits was slightly over 49,000, with just over 22,000 visits due to illnesses. Despite the rise in clinic visits, nurses were able to maintain a high return to class rate of 94% – key to ensuring that students are able to stay in school and learn. The primary reasons for clinic visits were illnesses, accidents, injuries, medication administration, monitoring and procedures. Examples of monitoring included taking vital signs and blood glucose to ensure students with chronic conditions are maintaining good health; examples of common procedures included nebulizer treatments and tube feedings. For the upcoming school year, the SNI will welcome four new nurses to the WPC schools at Lakemont Elementary, Cheney Elementary, Hungerford Elementary and Maitland Middle School.
The School Based Healthcare Centers (SBHCs) at Glenridge Middle School and Winter Park High School were busy as well. The SBHCs are staffed by licensed Advanced Registered Pediatric Nurse Practitioners through a grant to the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools for Healthcare Providers of Florida, the group charged with oversight of the nurses and Nurse Practitioners (a subsidiary group, Healthcare Providers & Associates staffs and oversees the CHILL program). The SBHCs provide free health services to children ages birth to 18 years who live in the Eatonville, Maitland and Winter Park communities. During the 2015-16 school year, the ARNPs saw approximately 3,600 students at each SBHC. At Winter Park High School, the number of visits held steady from the previous school year as did the very high return to class rate of 96%. Visits to the SBHC at Glenridge Middle School increased by approximately 600 children with a slight decrease in return to class rates. This is likely due to the severity of the illnesses and injuries seen at that SBHC. For the 2016-17 school year, the nurse practitioners are already busy seeing students for school entry exams and sports physicals!
Healthy School Teams (HSTs) leaders were once again at the forefront of changing the health and wellness culture within WPC schools. HSTs are based on the Center for Disease Control’s Coordinated School Health Model, which is a multi-disciplinary approach to health and wellness. HSTs involve key school staff such as the nurse, CHILL counselor, cafeteria manager, physical education teacher, administrative leadership and often, those with a passion for health, along with parents and other community members, to support health at the school through messaging, materials and events. During the 2015-16 school year, HST leaders helped facilitate running and yoga clubs, provided water bottles to highlight the importance of hydration and held health fairs as just a few examples. This year, the HST leaders will receive assistance from the WPHF in the form of a more prescriptive program. For instance, HST leaders will receive a calendar of nationally recognized health and wellness observances, such as Red Ribbon Week and National Nutrition Month to help them plan activities along with enhanced coordination of activities with the OCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Department. The WPHF will also work with the 8 elementary schools and OCPS FNS to complete an application for the USDA’s Healthier U.S. School Challenge, which has a financial reward for recognition.
Healthy Kids Today (HKT), an online resource for relevant, timely and often local health and wellness information, rounds out the CYI collection of school health and wellness services. Designed to reach busy parents in a user-friendly way, HKT can be accessed from its website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Since January 1, 2016, the HKT website has had 4,700 visitors, of which 85% are new visits.
There are many exciting outreach efforts coming for the 2016-17 school year. The WPHF has partnered with Light Bulb Communications, a company that contracts with 9 out of the 12 WPC schools to create their digital school newsletters. Through HKT, we will be providing health and wellness content to school newsletters thus increasing awareness of the connection between health and learning. Additionally, we will be partnering with 3 elementary schools – Aloma, Cheney and Lakemont – to pilot sending HKT messages through an app called Class Dojo. Class Dojo is a texting platform designed for communications between school staff and parents. We are also working with Hungerford Elementary to provide direct to parent communications through DirectConnect calls and their quarterly print newsletters. Follow us on social media for updates on our HKT communications efforts!