I try hard to understand the landscape our children have to traverse as they move through our schools to post-school life. I am acutely aware that every step they take on this journey is influenced by their interactions with their home, social, school and community environments. I cannot control most of their exposures, but I do have some influence within the sphere of school.
Today I met our school doctor to discuss and gain a deeper understanding of the school primary health care program. Why may you ask? The answer is a simple one - because our children are suffering under an array of socio-pathology issues that is draining the life out of them before they reach their teenage years. Too many children are walking around in our schools as unhappy beings, carrying responsibilities and burdens that should not be theirs to carry at this stage of their lives. They should be free to explore life without the shackles of worry, a lack of nutrition, a lack of basic health care, a lack of love, abuse and general neglect. All they should be focussed on is enjoying being young, being provided with suitable outlets for their infectious innocence and guidance with appropriate care.
Too often they cannot do this. Our newspapers are filled with horror stories involving our most vulnerable members of our community. Its as if war has been declared on our children.
Against this backdrop, I get an education around the "Integrated School Health Policy"
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a school health programme as a combination
of services ensuring the physical, mental and social well-being of learners so as to maximize
their learning capabilities (WHO, 1996).
In South Africa, the national government has developed the ICSH Policy with the below stated objectives:
- To provide preventive and promotive services that address the health needs of school going children and youth with regard to both their immediate and future health
- To support and facilitate learning through identifying and addressing health barriers to learning
- To facilitate access to health and other services where required
- To support the school community in creating a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning.
The School Health Policy objectives will be achieved by means of the following key strategies:
- Health Promotion and Health Education
- Provision of an essential package of health services in schools
- Coordination and Partnership
- Capacity Building
- Community Participation (DOH 2012)
What does this mean for our school-going children?
The program aims to individually assess every learner once during each of the four educational
phases. These assessments should be conducted by a professional nurse. Assessments during the foundation phase focus primarily on identifying health barriers to learning, as well as identifying children who have or are at risk for long-term health, psychosocial or other problems.
Foundation phase learners will be assessed on:
- Conduct vision, speech and basic hearing screening.
- Measurement of height, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). Appropriate nutritional
- interventions must be planned accordingly.
- Check for fine and gross locomotor problems.
- Conduct oral health screening.
- Screen for chronic illness or long-term health conditions - this includes both communicable diseases (such as TB and HIV/AIDS) as well as non-communicable diseases.
- Perform a basic mental health and/or psychosocial risk assessment.
Learners in the Senior and FET phases should also be screened for weight and body mass
index, vision, oral health, chronic illness or long-term health conditions and mental/
psychosocial health issues (DOH, 2012).
The next post will distill the ISHP further. Do you find this information useful? Do post a comment.