Verizon Foundation grant helps Auburn students give health screenings in rural schools

AUBURN – Through a grant from Verizon, researchers in Auburn’s College of Engineering are teaming up with the School of Nursing to bolster Kid Check, a program that provides health screenings to children in Alabama’s rural communities.

Representatives from the Verizon Foundation will present a check for $23,000 to the deans of Auburn University’s College of Engineering and School of Nursing on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 9:30 a.m. at Loachapoka High School. Students and faculty from both colleges, as well as from former Sen. Gerald Dial’s office of the Alabama Rural Action Commission, will be on hand for the event.

The Kid Check program enables nursing students to conduct free health screenings for school-age children, in kindergarten through grade 12, in communities which are medically underserved or have high poverty levels. The assessments identify children at risk for chronic health issues and diseases and provide them with referrals to area physicians. They also offer health education to modify any identified risk factors.

One of the hurdles to efficient screenings and secure patient information has been the paperwork used to record patient data. Under the direction of engineering faculty member Richard Chapman, wireless engineering students have proposed a system that will automate data gathering during Kid Check assessments. Through the use of portable wireless devices, the system will permit instant statistical analysis of the data by Auburn nurses in order to recommend appropriate referrals, lifestyle changes and additional information to children who need them.

“This is a significant opportunity for the two colleges to be involved in an interdisciplinary project,” said Chapman. “It’s important that the people making software be involved with the people using software. This project gets the developers and designers working together with the professionals who will really use the technology.”

While the primary focus is the accurate, confidential and instantaneous analysis of data in the field, the automated data collection system will also make important health data accessible to public health professionals, as well as state policy makers, while maintaining patient privacy. The system will be used by Auburn nursing students to conduct Kid Check assessments during spring 2010.

“So many children and families in rural areas don’t have easy access to health care,” said Barbara Wilder, a nursing faculty member involved with the Kid Check program. “Through this program, our students are able to identify children who may have a previously unrecognized need, while getting experience in the area of community health.”

Contact: Sara Borchik, (334) 844-3591 (borchse@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)