U of M School of Nursing Partners with School District to Prevent Obesity in School-Age Children
Barb Schlaefer, Communications Director, University of Minnesota School of Nursing
Ruth Dunn, Communications Director, Burnsville, Eagan, Savage School District
The University of Minnesota School of Nursing was awarded $3 million from the National Institutes of Health this spring to investigate how school nurses can help address the childhood obesity epidemic. The five-year research project will be conducted in collaboration with the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.
With one in three school-age children overweight or obese, there is an urgent need to develop programming to prevent obesity and support overweight students to maintain a healthy lifestyle, according to Dr. Martha Kubik, an associate professor with the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. She will lead the five-year study to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based, school nurse-directed healthy weight management program for overweight students. The program, the first of its kind, is scheduled to begin in September 2014 for about 200 students in grades two and four, who along with a parent will be invited to participate in the study.
"This is groundbreaking work with the potential to inform national policy," Kubik said at a recent school board meeting. “School nurses are a highly skilled, workforce, well positioned to intervene with children and families to provide healthy weight management programs.”
The nine-month after-school program will include twice monthly small group sessions for the students, a once-monthly support group for parents and quarterly one-on-one coaching sessions with the school nurse, parent and child.
“This is a huge benefit for our students and families," said Dawn Willson, the district's director of health services. "Students will receive ongoing support to make healthy changes in their lives."
The program will also engage primary care providers and local community organizations that provide active play and healthy snack opportunities for families.
This new program builds upon an existing partnership between District 191 and the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, which began in the 2004-2005 school year. At that time, Kubik worked with district health services staff to develop and evaluate a school-based body mass index (BMI) screening and parent notification program led by school nurses. This successful program, which continues today and is conducted annually for students in kindergarten, second, fourth and sixth grades, has attracted international attention.
About the School of Nursing
The University of Minnesota School of Nursing is ranked among the nation’s top nursing schools. It is a leader in nursing research and produces 55 percent of the faculty in Minnesota’s public and private nursing schools, advanced practice nurses and nurses who can assume leadership positions. It is the oldest continuously-operated, university-based school of nursing. The School of Nursing is one of six schools and colleges in the Academic Health Center, one of the most comprehensive facilities for health professionals in the nation, fostering interdisciplinary study, research and education.