A Community Partnership: Promoting Health in High Schoolers Through Diabetes Screening and Education


D. Stern

One of the goals of Healthy People 2010, a national U.S. health initiative, is to improve the quality of life for all persons who have or are at risk for diabetes through prevention and education. With type 2 diabetes mellitus among adolescents increasing in the U.S., early identification of risk factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle and high caloric intake, combined with education, may save the lives and limbs of teens at risk.

Conceptualized by the teachers in the Health Academy at Miami Lakes Educational Center (MLEC), a public high school, a unique partnership between the Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Nursing and Occupational Therapy students and faculty of Nova Southeastern University (NSU), and MLEC Health Academy faculty and students, focuses on diabetes screening in this primarily minority high school in Miami - Dade County, Florida. The MLEC student body is 85% Hispanic and African American, which are groups at higher risk than the general U.S. population for diabetes.

Over the past 4 years, more than 2000 student screenings have been conducted for a variety of risk factors including height and weight, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, hip to waist ratio, plasma glucose level, lifestyle and stress. Each student was provided information on healthy lifestyles and a copy of their individual results to share with caretakers and appropriate health care professionals. Follow up education and assistance to at risk students is provided through the health academy at MLEC and the supervising faculty Ms. Glenda Algaze, RN, and Mr. Neil Eichelbaum.

Without this screening, as many of these adolescents have no access to primary health care services, they may not have been aware of potentially dangerous health conditions or risks until irreparable damage was already present. More than 20% of the adolescents screened were found to be overweight, hypertensive and/or potentially diabetic or pre-diabetic. Greater than 50% were determined to have high levels of stress. To date, the life of at least one student was saved by identification of asymptomatic hypertension secondary to a previously undiagnosed tumor, and a hyperglycemic crisis was averted by identification of a dangerously high plasma glucose level.

This ongoing joint effort of the departments within the College of Allied Health and Nursing of NSU and MLEC, formalized by establishing a Partners in Education relationship, demonstrates the effectiveness of interdisciplinary cooperation between various health professions and the community in promoting preventive health care. The NSU – MLEC screening is partially funded through a grant awarded by the Health Foundation of South Florida. For more information on this program, contact: Dr. Debra F. Stern, PT, MSM, DBA at NSU: email: debras@nova.edu or phone: 800-356-0026 x 1662.