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Nursing Students Lead Community Health Projects

Residents of Hancock, Penobscot and Waldo county towns have benefited from three community health projects completed by University of Maine nursing seniors. The students conducted analyses to determine the health needs of each community and devised plans to address them.

Elizabeth Bicknell, associate professor of nursing, was the primary mentor for all three of the groups.

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One group of six seniors collaborated with the Castine Fire Department, Castine Post Office and Vial of Life to distribute forms detailing medical history, medication and advance directives for residents to make available to first responders. Residents mark their front door with a red decal, which informs first responders that important medical information is affixed to the resident’s refrigerator using a matching decal.

Vial of Life is a nonprofit group that distributes the distinctive decals and medical forms to communities across the United States.

The group of six students started their project by performing a complete health history of Castine. They found there was a lack of emergency response services as a result of budget cuts, and decided to distribute the Vials of Life to residents at the Castine Post Office.

The students were Jacob McCrea and Margaret Dionne of Brewer; Renee Butler of Hampden; Melinda Grover of Newburgh; Thomas Gutow of Castine and Brian Coer of Madison, Connecticut.

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Another group of seniors sought to educate kindergarten and first-grade students at Searsport Elementary School about proper hygiene. The nursing students used hands-on activities to show the importance of proper hand washing, as well as teaching facts about germs and a song to remind the children how long they should continue washing.

Targeting young children for hygiene education may help foster better hygiene practices throughout childhood and ideally into adulthood, the students said. It also should help reduce the spread of illness within the school, they added.

The students were Brittany Ames of Cumberland, Hilary Clark of Poland, Candace Work of Belfast, Emily Miliano of Cornish, Magalloway Field of Stratton, Joshua Hughes of Glenburn, and Brieana Evans of Bangor.

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The third group partnered with the Brewer Community School and visited two seventh-grade health classes to educate students about healthy lifestyle and nutrition choices. Each nursing student devised an interactive activity based on a point of the “5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!” initiative, a childhood obesity prevention program.

The 5-2-1-0 initiative stands for five or more fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one or more hours of physical activity and zero sugary drinks.

The nursing students targeted obesity rates in Penobscot County because it has the highest rate in the state, they said. At the Brewer Community School, 47 percent of students are overweight or obese, according to body mass index (BMI) calculations.

The students administered a 10-question survey before and after the activities. They determined there was a 14 percent increase in scores after the children participated, suggesting a positive outcome.

The group consisted of four students: Janette Merritt of Deer Isle, Sean Sibley of Lincoln, Laura St. Pierre of Lewiston, and Olivia Tetu of Brunswick.

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