Our school health program is a vital part of UPMC St. Margaret's commitment to children and to the community. Our school-linked partnerships with Pittsburgh Montessori, Arsenal Elementary, Woolslair, and the Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh Charter elementary schools and The Neighborhood Academy overlap the same communities and families served by our family health centers. In the best public health sense, this enables us to fashion preventive health care for young students and their teachers based on community observations.
In 1989, Dr. Ann McGaffey developed the first operational school health partnership in the Pittsburgh area. The UPMC St. Margaret School Health Partnership identified specific goals including on-site screening physicals for entry, second, and fourth grade students with parent permission; priority treatment at the health centers if requested by school personnel and parents; and educational programs for the schools. We work closely with the school nurses in evaluating and following students.
Beginning in 1990, we had faculty in-service programs on first aid and common illnesses in school-age children. In 1991, Dr. McGaffey piloted courses for fifth graders on expected puberty changes, followed by classes on human sexuality, relationships, family life, and sexual health risks. Drs. McGaffey, Klatt, Han, and Schroeder published What About Me: Puberty Education for Preteens (second edition 2006) and Learning About Sexuality Is Like Learning How to Swim (second edition 2010) to use in the classroom and as a home resource. Our violence and conflict resolution class "Peacemakers" (April 1996) is taught to fourth graders each winter. Advocacy of nonsmoking for third graders, "Kids Say Don't Smoke," accompanies the Great American Smoke Out (debuted November 1995). Our dental exam program with the Allegheny County Health Department enlarged to include forty county schools.
Each year of this community partnership has brought innovations. During spring 1995, UPMC St. Margaret's nurses and residents partnered with Fort Pitt school, Carnegie Mellon University, and various community groups on Dare to Share Day, erecting a safe, attractive playground for inner city youth. Dr. Klatt, the Pennsylvania Respiratory Alliance, and residents teach students and school personnel to improve asthma recognition and self-management, beginning with the 1996-1997 school year. Camp Kon-O-Kwee invited us to help the camp nurses evaluate and treat campers every summer. In 2003, residents acquainted kindergartners with medical exams during a Teddy Bear Clinic. A series of residents have provided sports physicals and shadowing experiences for grades 8-12 at The Neighborhood Academy. Fitwits School research (2008) and the resulting fun 1-hour fifth grade program stimulate thinking about obesity prevention, associated diseases, exercise, nutrition, and portion sizes. The program uses didactics, hands-on and visual learning demonstrations, and memory and trivia games, resulting in an engaging program complemented by Fitwits MD in the physician office.
UPMC St. Margaret family medicine residents play an active role in our school health program. First year residents spend one day per week with the school health program during their family health center outpatient rotation. Senior residents have multiple opportunities to continue their involvement with this exciting and innovative program.