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Maywood, IL - Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing Establishes School-Based Health Center

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Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing faculty established a school-based health center in Proviso East High School more than a decade ago in response to growing health-care disparities in this underserved community. Since its inception, thousands of students have benefited from the center's primary health care, school physicals, immunizations and social work, mental health, nutrition and laboratory services.

"The school-based health center provides easy access to health-care and education for students who might not otherwise receive treatment and preventive services," said Diana Hackbarth, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and SBHC project director, Loyola's Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. "These resources have helped students thrive both inside and outside of the classroom."

Program highlights for the facility, which is supported by federal, state and private foundation funding, were recently featured in the 2011/2012 Annual Report for the School-Based Health Center.

Many Proviso students go to school without eating breakfast. By lunch time, these students are famished. In response to this concern, the SBHC began offering Lunch Bunch, a program that provides students with a balanced lunch accompanied by health and nutrition education three days a week. The program has been so successful that teachers and coaches have asked the SBHC registered dietitians to provide nutrition lessons to their classes and teams beyond the lunch period. Loyola faculty and students also offer a Lunch Bunch program strictly for teachers and staff once per semester to increase their awareness of nutrition education resources and SBHC services.

The center's nutrition programs also include counseling, weight-loss guidance and junk-free zones where students eat nutritional snacks.

"These efforts have enhanced school performance, helped to fight obesity and improved the health of students," said Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD, LDN, assistant professor and director, dietetics education programs, Loyola's Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. "The programs also have increased dietary variety for students and offered tips for healthy meals that they can share with their families."

High school is often a time when students struggle with peer pressure, substance abuse, bullying, depression, anger management and family issues. The SBHC staff provides mental health classroom presentations and individual therapy throughout the year to help students cope with these issues. The SBHC social worker and community outreach nurse also have taken these programs out into the community.

In collaboration with the Proviso Dean of Students, the SBHC developed an alternative to the school's traditional suspension program. The Positive Interpersonal Relationships Aiming Towards Enhancements (PIRATE) Program teaches students conflict resolution, anger-management skills and coping and relaxation techniques to decrease future disciplinary action and to create a more positive school environment. Forty-one students were referred to the program from October 2011 to March 2012. Twenty-nine students completed the program, and 61% of these adolescents did not have additional suspensions.

The SBHC services have expanded beyond Proviso. About 350 elementary school students in District 89, located in Maywood, Melrose Park and Broadview, recently received the flu shot from Loyola faculty and students. This effort took place through the Vaccines for Children program in preparation for what is expected to be a difficult flu season.

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