Baptist Health offers students awareness program
Baptist Health Center is helping to provide a healthier future for the children of East Tennessee by offering the CARDIAC Program to area elementary schools in an effort to pinpoint any adolescents who may one day be a candidate for heart disease, the state’s number one killer.
The CARDIAC program, developed by William Neal, M.D., was first implemented in West Virginia. CARDIAC educates fifth-grade students and screens them for early indicators of heart disease. Because heart disease is often genetic, at-risk children often lead physicians to at-risk parents.
Baptist’s Community Health Partnerships Director Dena Mashburn and Baptist Laboratory, M.T, Rose Ann Fetzer, brought their mobile check-up clinic to Caton’s Chapel School March 24. Caton’s Chapel was the first of six Sevier County schools the program will visit this spring.
“In the pilot—this spring—we will visit six schools,” Mashburn noted. Mashburn and Fetzer planned to visit New Center Elementary School after leaving Caton’s Chapel.
“In the fall, our goal is to visit all of the schools in Cocke, Sevier and Knox counties.”
Neal, a Pediatric Cardiologist at West Virginia University, started with the program five years ago in West Virginia as a research project.
“We’re trying to emulate them (West Virginia) because they have five years of data and this is a research project,” Mashburn added. “I’m sure other states are doing similar studies in a different program, but not exactly like this. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital is providing us with referrals and we are very excited about their doctors helping us.”
Caton’s Chapel Principal Bill Hatcher feels that such a program can only be beneficial to the children’s future. He sees no downside in the project and is grateful that Caton’s Chapel was chosen as one of the six schools for the pilot visits.
“We are excited that we were chosen for this program,” he said. “We appreciate the folks at Baptist for giving us the opportunity to participate in this.
“It’s good that they’re pinpointing kids because Americans as a whole have health concerns. I think it’s a great idea if we can try to find any problems while they’re young,” Hatcher stated.
Because school nurses have so many responsibilities during their typical daily schedule, Mashburn said the Sevier County Health Council—a group of volunteers—have offered their services to help with the project.
“What a delightful group of people,” Mashburn said regarding the health council. “They have been very helpful to us in working to raise awareness and engage the entire community in combating heart problems.”
According to Mashburn, the program has a three-prong goal. First of all, they seek to help kids that are deemed “at risk” to change their behavior. The program will then look to parents that may be at-risk. If a student is discovered to have high cholesterol—over 200 or an HDL less than 35—they will be given a voucher for a free full-fasting lipid profile for both the student and their parents. They also hope to create energy for the community to make changes to help address obesity in children, one of the leading contributors to heart disease.
CARDIAC programs will not interrupt the school day for students with only a short amount of time needed for screenings. More than 650 children are included in the initial pilot program.