Board considers teen health risk factor study

By Kim Walter

WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University faculty members are hoping to conduct a research project that would require a partnership with Frederick County Public Schools.

During its meeting Tuesday, the Frederick County School Board received information about the study, titled Screening Teens Early With Identification and Intervention.

Pam Webber, representing the university’s School of Nursing, said the study’ purpose would be to identify the prevalence of risk factors for the development of chronic health disorders in teens in the region.

It would also help determine the effectiveness of a two part reoccurring electronic education program in minimizing certain risk factors.

The idea for the study came about 10 years ago when faculty and staff were conducting physicals for area students, Webber said.

“We noticed a disturbing trend in that young students were displaying risk factors leading toward chronic disease,” she said. “Now, we’ve worked all our concerns into a full research proposal, and we need your help.”

By partnering with Piedmont Medical Laboratories, student volunteers would have their blood drawn several times, depending on their age and how many years they have left in the school system. Webber said the study should span over the next four years, so that students risk factors and levels can be monitored.

Students will be screened for blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight, body mass index, gum inflammation, cholesterol levels, fasting blood glucose, vitamin D and C-reactive protein, among other things.

Webber said the screenings would normally cost about $300 per person.

As it stands now, the study will focus on students at James Wood High School due to its proximity to the university. However, if it is successful, it could expand to all three county schools, Webber said.

The study would be advertised, and only students and parents who volunteer and give consent will take part in the study. Students can opt out at any time.

Webber said lab results will be given to each participating student, and if risk factors are present, documents translating the results will be provided. Additionally, a copy of results will be sent to the student’s primary care doctor, if they would like.

If a student doesn’t have a primary doctor, Webber said a local medical practice has offered to see the students for follow-up throughout the study for free.

The study will also present a two-part, bilingual electronic education program. Part one would define each risk factor, explain why it’s important and provide information about lifestyle activities that help minimize each risk factor.

Part two involves sending subjects a weekly or biweekly electronic message related to healthy lifestyle choices that help minimize certain risk factors.

Any school would be able to access the information, Webber said.

All participating student information would be kept confidential according to the 1996 Healthcare Insurance and Portability Accountability Act, she added.

Webber said she’d like to begin collecting blood this winter, during the second semester.

In order for her to submit the proposal to Shenandoah’s Institutional Review Board, Webber said she has to provide a site for the study, which is how the School Board’s approval will help to initially move the process along.

“I’ve had some graduate medical students searching for literature on any study like this taking place before,” Webber said. “They’ve found no other study like this dealing with this population, so we’re very excited to get things going.”

The School Board will consider the study and partnership for approval during its next regular meeting on Nov. 18.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com