Western Health supports comprehensive school health, an integrated approach that gives students numerous opportunities to observe and learn positive health attitudes and behaviours. It is an approach to student learning that ensures children have the best possible surrounding to grow, learn and play.
The goal of the Comprehensive School Health Framework is to create an environment that supports four key elements:
- Healthy school policies (such as the School food guidelines and the tobacco free policies)
- Health knowledge and skills that are taught in the classroom setting
- Healthy social and physical environments within the school
- Partnerships with families, local agencies and the wider community to support the best health and learning possible.
When everyone works together and all of these elements are supported, the students are able to learn to their full potential.
Many staff of Western Health are actively involved in schools throughout the region. Community health nurses, social workers, addictions counselors, youth outreach workers, behavioral management specialists and others play a large role in promoting health and providing services directly to children, youth and their families. There are many other staff involved on a consultative capacity, supporting policy development and liaising between Newfoundland and Labrador School District and Western Health. Community health nurses work in partnership with students, families, and various community agencies advocate for and promote healthy lifestyles.
Provincial Healthy Students Healthy Schools initiative
Each school in the Western region has a community health nurse whose role is to promote healthy lifestyles and healthy choices. Nurses work in a facilitative/supportive role with the school to improve the overall health environment for everyone.
The community health nurse is the primary contact for any health promotion initiative to be carried out in the school by employees of Western Health so that the delivery of health services can be carried out in a coordinated approach. See the Co-Ordination of School Based Health Promotion Policy for more information.
Community health nurses play a large role in the school setting. They provide support to teachers and families through the Kinderstart program as parents get ready to send their children to school for the first time. Similarly, nurses are available to present to school council and to school administration the importance of school policies and activities that promote healthy lifestyles. The nurse can assist teaching staff to identify appropriate health education resources for classroom instruction. At the beginning of each school year, nurses are available to speak to parents and staff around the various issues such as school food guidelines, and communicable diseases such as head lice and scabies. Community health nurses provide information around the management and treatment for various medical conditions such as anaphylaxis, diabetes and epilepsy.
Community health nurses are required to complete various health promotion education initiatives within the school setting. They provide at least one nutrition initiative each year in each school. They continually include the importance of breastfeeding and healthy eating in all health education sessions. They participate in the health teaching and are resources for teachers on health topics such as on bullying, self-esteem, and injury prevention.
Additionally, information is provided around a variety of topics including:
- Hand washing/respiratory etiquette
- Dental health
- Managing Head Lice at Home
- Active living initiative
- Growth and development to include the various phases of puberty
- Smoking prevention
- Body image
- Chronic disease prevention
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
- Reproductive health (i.e. values and sexuality, self-esteem and sexual identity, relationships, communication and decision making, contraception, safer sex, Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV, Testicular self-exam, breast self-exam, cervical screening initiatives).
Community health nurses complete a needs assessment within their school every three years. Using the results of these assessments, nurses work with the school principal, staff, students, parents, other Western Health employees and the community, to determine the focus of health promotion activities.
The community health nurse completes vision and hearing screenings to ensure every child up to grade six has a baseline screening completed. In addition, screenings are done when referrals are received from parents, teachers, physicians, students and other sources, ensuring consent is obtained.
The community health nurse conducts the school immunization program in accordance with the schedule outlined in the Provincial Immunization Guide. Children receive meningococcal in grade four (2 doses), Human papillomavirus (HPV) for girls in grade six (3 doses) and in grade nine, they receive a single "booster" dose of Tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough. We are very proud to say that our immunization rates within the school setting are over 95%.