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Tests aimed at finding health concerns in W.Va. fifth-graders

March 25, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In the gymnasium at Mill Creek Intermediate School Wednesday, a fifth-grader waiting to have his finger pricked for a cholesterol screening asked a friend who was finished whether it hurt.

The other boy shrugged off any pain with a tough, "No."

All fifth-graders in Berkeley County are having their weight, height, blood pressure, body-mass index and cholesterol checked for free under a program called CARDIAC, or Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities.

The program, sponsored by West Virginia University, is designed to help determine early on which children are at-risk for developing heart disease.

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Fifth-graders at Tomahawk, Orchard View and Eagle School intermediate schools already have been tested. Those at Potomack Intermediate will be tested next week, said Jane Ishman, a registered nurse who covers four schools in the county.

Although other parts of the state are testing kindergartners, Berkeley County officials have decided only to test fifth-graders, said Jane Sullivan, site coordinator of the Eastern West Virginia Rural Health Education Consortium.

At the gym, students turned in parent permission slips then had their blood pressure tested. After that, they kicked off their shoes to be weighed and have their height measured. At the last stop, a few drops of blood were taken to test each student's cholesterol.

Students whose cholesterol is below 35 or more than 200 will receive a voucher to have a follow-up test done at a Martinsburg laboratory. Students will have to fast before that test, which should make it a bit more accurate than Wednesday's screening, since fasting was not required.

Once finished in the gym, the students were treated to healthful snacks, including pure apple juice, popcorn, pretzels and multi-grain bars.

Learning how to eat healthy is part of the program, Ishman said.

Some students are moderately obese and others are what Ishman called morbidly obese. Overall, she said obesity is steadily increasing in children, likely caused by a poor diet and lifestyle.

Around 62 percent or 63 percent of the county's fifth-graders received permission to participate. Letters were sent home to parents telling them about the program and its importance, Ishman said.

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