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New Ulm Medical Center

Lafayette pumps up school and community health and fitness

Lafayette Charter School held the Twilight Trot 1K and 5K walk/run in early May.

Lafayette Charter School held the Twilight Trot 1K and 5K walk/run in early May. The school is one of 10 schools in Minnesota and western Wisconsin that were chosen to receive $10,000 grants from the Allina Health School Health Connection program. Some of that grant money was used for the Twilight Trot.

For more information, visit School Health Connection™. To make an appointment with Bryana Andert, DO, call New Ulm Medical Center, 507-217-5000 or Winthrop Area Clinic, 507-647-8000.

In the town of Lafayette, a small school is making big strides to improve the health of students and the entire community.

Lafayette Charter School, which has 103 students in grades K-8 plus 25 preschoolers, is one of 10 schools in Minnesota and western Wisconsin that were chosen to receive $10,000 grants from the Allina Health School Health Connection™ program.

The school has improved its basketball court and purchased a 12-piece outdoor fitness “exersite” with exercise stations. Both facilities are used by everyone in the community. Some of the grant money also was used to register and purchase t-shirts for 75 students who wanted to take part in Lafayette’s first-ever Twilight Trot, a 1K and 5K walk-run for the community. Despite chilly spring weather, 150 people participated in the May 3 event.

“Our community has a large role in the school, and health and wellness is a big initiative for us,” said Andrea Harder, lead teacher. “Our kids have always had daily PE and recess time, and we’re always looking for ways to help them and their families make healthy lifestyle choices.”

As a grant recipient, Lafayette Charter School was able to host a Family Fitness Fair last fall and tap into kid-focused online tools from Allina Health that focus on healthy eating and exercise. The school also formed a consulting relationship with Bryana Andert, DO, a family medicine physician who joined New Ulm Medical Center last September and works one day each week in the Winthrop Area Clinic.

Andert talked with and gave presentations to teachers through the school year. Teachers selected topics of concern – nutrition, physical fitness, stress and sleep – so that Andert could educate them and send letters home to parents.

“I was surprised to learn how big an issue students’ mental health was for the teachers,” Andert said. “We focused on things like breathing and relaxation exercises that they can use at school.”

Andert’s letter to parents about stress described warning signs that a child might be dealing with stress in unhealthy ways or suffering from depression. One in four adults and one in 10 children has a diagnosable mental illness, it noted, “so if you have concerns with you, your child, or another loved one, I’d encourage you to reach out for help.” Concerned parents were encouraged to contact a school counselor, family physician, or mental health resource.

“The concept of having a physician liaison with a school is great,” Andert said. “It’s important as a physician to have a presence in the community, and this program has given me a great opportunity to get to know families in the area.”

School Health Connection™ has really made a difference in Lafayette, Harder said. She told a story about a first grader who learned about healthy food choices and then went grocery shopping with her mother. When Mom put Cheetos in the cart, the girl pointed out that even though they are orange and eating from the full rainbow of food colors is healthy, Cheetos are not healthy food.

“We just want to express our thankfulness for the grant and for Dr. Andert, who is so easy to work with and a wonderful resource,” Harder said.

Carisa Buegler, community engagement director for New Ulm Medical Center, said School Health Connection™ is a key part of the hospital’s efforts to reach out to young people. “We have partnerships with all of the schools in our area, because we’re committed to improving the health of children,” she said.

Source: New Ulm Medical Center - Health Edition
Reviewed by: Bryana Andert, DO, a family medicine physician at New Ulm Medical Center.
First Published: 05/01/2013
Last Reviewed: 05/01/2013