Western University of Health Sciences joined with the Pomona Unified School District to educate students and parents about health issues at the first Student Well Being Conference Jan. 23, 2013 in Pomona, Calif.
The conference, organized by PUSD, linked children and families to health, mental health and other services in an effort to improve wellness in support of student success.
“We came up with the idea of holding the Student Well Being Conference to increase community awareness of our school health and mental health programs,” said Mark Maine, MHSA, PhD, PUSD director of Student Well Being. “We also felt it important to celebrate our deep collaboration with Western University of Health Sciences, as we have a number of affiliation agreements with WesternU, including vision and dental screenings for children. WesternU is a tremendous resource to our children and families that is helping to enhance the quality of life in our community.”
The conference included a keynote address by Sheila Lyons, RN, BSN, MA, retired PUSD director of Student Health Services. WesternU faculty and students from optometry, dental medicine and the Western Diabetes Institute provided information on services offered at WesternU’s Patient Care Center. Other community partners and school nurses provided information on nutrition, special education, mental health and other topics.
“Research has demonstrated that there is a connection between student health and academic achievement,” Maine said. “We have also found a strong correlation between student wellness and having a school nurse on site to support student success. Many children come to school with serious health conditions that need to be managed during the school day, and our school nurses and mental health professionals address student health needs, thus supporting their educational success.”
Lyons worked 40 years as a nurse, the last 21 years with Pomona Unified. School nurses and health services assistants help decrease absenteeism, ensure students with chronic health problems attend school safely and regularly, and oversee the health and safety of the entire school population, she said.
Parents are a school nurse’s most important partners, and good communication is vital, she said. She encouraged all parents to meet their school nurse and health assistants and inform them of their children’s health issues.
“Please advocate for school health and for school nurses, particularly in this season of budget cuts,” Lyons said. “Please let those who make the decisions know that school nurses and school health staff are important to not only your school, but to your district.”
Parents and students were able to visit various stations and ask questions on different topics. College of Dental Medicine students offered toothbrushes and toothpaste along with information about the Dental Center at Western University of Health Sciences.
“Our goal is to increase dental awareness in our local community and represent our school,” said College of Dental Medicine student Stella Tam, DMD ’14. “Because we are in class from 8 to 5, we might lose sight of why we’re in school. We’re here because we want to be dentists and we want to help improve oral health.”