As children with painted faces scampered around Rose Park Elementary School, clutching balloon animals and imitating a mime, it was hard to tell that many had just received immunization shots or had blood drawn.
That was just what the folks at Intermountain Health Care had hoped for.Thursday was the culmination of a health screening at the school, where an estimated 68-72 percent of the students come from low-income families, according to school principal Rosanne Jackson. The screening was sponsored by IHC in collaboration with the Utah Department of Health, the University of Utah College of Nursing and others.
Wednesday, more than 600 children had vision, hearing, dental and other medical examinations. Thursday night, with parents in tow, the children returned to the school for a spaghetti dinner and carnival and to receive the results of the tests.
Those tests yielded significant results, according to IHC vice president Pamela Atkinson. About half the children have dental cavities, some of them advanced. Twenty need eyeglasses. As for hearing, "lots" of the children had excessive ear wax.
But the most surprising finding, Atkinson said, was that 17 children in the school have acute ear infections that aren't being treated.
IHC came up with the idea for the screening as a way to help families and do a needs assessment at the school. It placed a clinic in Lincoln Elementary School two years ago and last year IHC established a neighborhood clinic in the Sorenson Multicultural Center to serve several schools. This year, IHC adopted Rose Park Elementary and will draw up a strategic health-care plan for the school, based on results of the screening.
IHC arranged for care of the children at the neighborhood clinic if their families lack insurance.
Families who qualified for Medicaid or the state's insurance program for low-income children were able to sign up at the carnival. The children could also get caught up on their immunizations and receive the Hepatitis A vaccine.
And the Salt Lake City-County Health Department was on hand to do voluntary lead screenings. The school is in one of the department's lead-screening target areas, according to Carina Eisenboss, who oversaw the process. They are focusing on neighborhoods with older houses and hope to test all children in those areas between ages 1 and 6, since "they are at the highest risk. They're vulnerable to poison and lead can affect the brain." They are also more likely to eat peeling and chipping paint at that age, she said.
By visiting at least 10 of the 29 area agencies that set up booths at the school, families could win prizes. The booths ranged from a Teddy Bear Clinic to Consumer Credit Counseling and Baby Your Baby/Check Your Health. Parents also could get their cholesterol and blood sugar levels checked.
Organizers collected more than 650 new and "gently used" books, so each child got to keep one.
"I think this is good," said Dale Wallis, who attended the fair with wife Janel and children Greg, 11, Ashley, 10, Chelsea, 6 and Courtney, 3. They also brought along friends Haylie Ferguson, 12, and Kobi Rollins, 8.
The Wallises have worried that Chelsea might need glasses; Thursday night they were ready to find out.
"We have health insurance," said Jamie Green, whose son Braiden, 4, was screened. "But if there's a problem, it's great to catch it early."
What did the kids think of the poking and prodding?
"She thought it was kind of neat," said Dan Lukkes of daughter Amanda, 5. His wife, Cheryl, added that the program had a real "benefit for the kids."