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Program targets obesity in children
School nurses partnering with nursing students from NGCSU
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Hall County Schools Board of Education work session
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Hall County Schools Central Office, 711 Green St. NW, Gainesville
Contact: 770-534-1080,

School nurses in Hall County want to do more to prevent childhood obesity and Type II diabetes this year.

"We’re doing a program called (School Nurse Childhood Obesity Prevention Education),” said Mamie Coker, health services coordinator for Hall County schools. “We take height, weight and (body mass index) and determine who is at risk.”

“At risk” means having a BMI of 85 percent or above, which indicates a child could be obese or develop Type II diabetes, Coker said.

SCOPE is part of a new wellness initiative sponsored by the United Health Group, Coker said.

School nurses are partnering with nursing students from North Georgia College & State University throughout September to administer the SCOPE program.

Students can only participate with their parents’ approval.

“With BMI, they will be done privately and confidentially,” Coker said, adding students will be turned on the scale so even they can’t see their weight. “We understand parents and students are sensitive about this issue.”

After a child is determined to be at risk from their BMI, nurses will do several other tests.

“Once you do BMI, you also follow up with blood pressure and the other step is a screen for acanthosis. That you look at the skin folds at the back of the neck for a certain color. It’s an indication for Type II diabetes,” Coker said.

Several hundred students will be participating this month. Patti Simmons, assistant professor of nursing at North Georgia, said 126 nursing students will be assisting at Hall schools.

“Part of the curriculum is to do service learning. We’ll do this now and in October they’ll go to the hospital for clinical learning,” Simmons said. “They’re learning to give some of their time. Once they get there, their hearts will open to students of different backgrounds, different cultures and different languages.”

Simmons heard about SCOPE in the spring and immediately contacted Coker to see how the nursing program could help.
Student nurses will be at Hall County schools every Wednesday and Friday for the next few weeks.

Coker said SCOPE would help Hall County reverse the trend of children not outliving their parents because of increased risk for health problems related to obesity.

“Seventy-five percent of parents don’t know their children are overweight. Most don’t go in for well-child checks because of the economy ... We want to reverse the trend,” she said. “We care not only about students being life-long learners, but we want them to live a long life.”