With flu-associated hospitalizations in Delaware County since Oct. 1 over three times higher than the previous five-year average, a nationwide program aimed at keeping school-aged children healthy during flu season is set to kick off at Alum Creek Elementary School in Lewis Center.
In October, Alum Creek Elementary School nurse Jan Mewhorter was notified the school was one of two in Ohio and 100 nationwide to be selected to take part in a program called FLUency.
Offered free of charge through a partnership between Kinsa — manufacturer of smart thermometers that link to a smartphone app — and Children’s Tylenol, the program’s mission is to “help parents and school staff know what’s going around the school to allow for the appropriate measures to be taken to keep kids healthy and in school,” said FLUency Director Nita Nehru, who manages communications and partnerships at Kinsa.
“We know (the flu) is going to hit every single year, but we just don’t know where exactly it’s spreading until it’s come and gone,” she added.
To help track and try to stop the spread of illness, Kinsa decided to put its smart themometers to good use by offering them free of charge to parents and staff at select schools throughout the country chosen to participate in the FLUency program.
Nehru said the 100 schools selected were done so through careful consideration of various factors, including the involvement of parents in school-based events and the availability of a school official capable of serving as a “champion of the program.”
“We want schools taking part in the program for the right reasons,” she said. “We want schools that embrace it as a whole and want to keep kids healthy and in class.”
Alum Creek Elementary fit the bill, which was music to Mewhorter’s ears.
“We felt that any way we could identify illnesses earlier would benefit the school community,” she said.
How FLUency works
Parents and staff at Alum Creek interested in taking part in the program have until Jan. 31 to reach out to Mewhorter to express their interest in receiving a free smart thermometer and downloading the associated app to their smartphone.
Nehru said parents who use the thermometer will be able to keep track of their child’s temperature through the app, which also gives parents the ability to report symptoms their child may be experiencing or if their child has been diagnosed with a certain illness.
“(The information) is all anonymous and aggregated,” she said.
Nehru said no names are shared on the app, just the number of kids in the school who have a cough, fever, stomach illness, etc.
“The data helps parents take appropriate precautions,” she said. “If the child is sick, it helps get them on a treatment sooner so they aren’t affecting others.”
As the school nurse, Mewhorter is well aware of the benefits the program offers staff and parents at Alum Creek Elementary.
“By identifying illnesses sooner, students are not as likely to come to school sick, which helps to prevent the illness from spreading,” she said.
Parents wishing to enroll in the program by the Jan. 31 deadline can do so by contacting Mewhorter at 740-657-4600.
For more information on the FLUency program, visit www.kinsahealth.com/fluency.
Contact Joshua Keeran at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @KeeranGazette.