Wellness on Wheels tour helps teens focus on healthy choices
There is a commonplace view that teenagers think they are indestructible.
“It really is true,” said Bernadette Melnyk, Ohio State University’s chief wellness officer and dean of the college of nursing. “Teens just don’t think much about health issues and especially about the actions they can take now to prevent a future health crisis.”
Ohio State is hoping to change that as its Wellness on Wheels tour travels the state to offer health screenings and education this year.
“We have a focus this year on high school students, because childhood is connected to the rest of your adult life,” Melnyk said.
The WOW tour visited Grove City High School on Nov. 30, presenting a daylong health fair in the school library.
“Our health fair is very focused on health promotion and prevention,” Melnyk said. “Right now, one of two people have a chronic disease in our country, yet 80 percent of chronic disease is preventable. So if we can give our young people more knowledge and help them make healthier choices, then we’ll hopefully have less chronic disease.”
About 200 students taking health courses at Grove City High School signed up to participate in the health fair, said Kate Gawlik, assistant professor with Ohio State’s college of nursing.
About 30 students from Ohio State’s colleges of nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, education and human ecology operated stations set up in the library space, she said.
The high school students received biometric screenings, including blood pressure and body mass index; participated in mental health screenings; took part in flex and strength tests, got checks on their dental health and learned about healthy eating choices, opioid addiction and preventing smoking from students from the university’s college of pharmacy, Gawlik said.
“For the OSU students, the WOW tour health fairs is a part of their clinical experience, which is part of their academic programs,” she said.
The Grove City health fair was the fourth the WOW tour held this year at a high school, but the first in central Ohio.
“We were so pleased to be able to do this collaboration with Ohio State, because it allows us to provide our students with a service we couldn’t provide on our own,” said Jody Smelko-Schneider, school nurse at Grove City High School.
“It just wouldn’t be feasible for us to arrange on our own to bring in health professionals to offer all the screenings and information our students are able to get at this one event,” she said. “They’re getting the benefits of a full-fledged health fair.”
Students taking health courses were invited to sign up, Smelko-Schneider said, and each student had to have a permission slip signed by a parent.
The education regarding how the use of nicotine and opioids could affect their health may have had more of an impact coming from university students who are closer to their age, she said.
“They may just listen to it a little more than if it was being told to them by an ‘older’ person,” Smelko-Schneider said.
The screenings offered at the WOW tours can reveal health issues that teens may not even be aware they have, Melnyk said.
“We’ve been able to find students who have elevated blood pressure or have some mental health or depression issues,” she said. “They can take steps to address these issues early, before they grow into more serious health issues.”