Gillis Students Receive Health Challenge

March 1, 2007

Reported by: Britney Glaser

How healthy are kids in Southwest Louisiana?  Do they understand the ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle at a young age? These are the questions that McNeese Nursing students took to 100 5th grade students at Gillis Elementary.

More than six weeks were spent surveying and compiling data from a series of health-related questions posed to the students in rural Calcasieu Parish.  The final step in the community health project involved a creative challenge for the kids to transform their unhealthy habits.

5th grade student, Taylor Landry, says he knows not to "Sit around and watch TV and to go outside and play."  These 5th grade students just got a jump start in healthy behaviors.  One nursing student dressed as a box of energy bounced into the school's cafeteria with the message, "What are you doing? Let's get moving!"  This "box of energy" was just one of 20 McNeese nursing students using some unique methods of reinforcing healthy habits.

When the tune of "Sexy Back" by Justin Timberlake began blaring in the Gillis cafeteria, the student's began screaming in excitement...but this time, the words were a little different.  The nursing students began singing, "I'm bringing tissue back...cover your nose and germs cannot attack."

According to the data in this health study, these students struggle with a variety of health issues.  5th grade student Jonathan McManus says, "I don't really wash my hands."  He's not alone, either.  About 40 percent of these students say they *sometimes* wash their hands. With this statistic in need of improvement, the nursing students form-fitted a song just for these kids.

The "Scrub Squad," as they were called, began dancing to the tune of "Cupid Shuffle" by Cupid, but their words would probably make Cupid stop his shuffle: "Pump the soap, pump the soap, pump the soap, pump the scrub, now scrub, now scrub, now your hands are germ-free, now your hands are germ-free."

Amy Welsh is a McNeese Nursing student.  She says, "It was very important to get to the students now, so that they can take some of these behaviors with them through middle school and hopefully on through high school."  5th grade student Miranda Williams says, "The nurses coming here and teaching us about health really inspired me to go out and do more, so I can stay healthy and not become slow and sluggish."

Veronica Woodard is one of the nursing instructors at McNeese.  She says, "It influences their behavior and has the potential to do so for a lifetime. They may not ever get a message like this again."  Young Miranda says the catchy songs are something that she will not forget.

What else did these 5th graders learn?  Jonathan says, "Wash my hands and brush my teeth a lot more."  Taylor adds, "Eating fruit and vegetables."  Miranda says, "Drinking less soda and drinking more water, juice and milk."  And probably the most important piece of information these students grasped was summed up by a 5th grade student named Abbie.  She says, "It can still be fun if you wanna get fit!"

The McNeese Nursing students also developed a resource book for school nurses and school administration in Calcasieu Parish with their research.

Here are a few links that you might find handy in the quest for better health:
*Effects of fast food consumption among children
*Kids and soft drinks
*Eat your fruit and vegetables
*Action for Healthy Kids