2008-06-19 / News

Jamestown Schools receive health award

By Michaela Kennedy

Renie Sullivan Jamestown School Nurse Renie Sullivan Jamestown School Nurse The school nurse's office has always been the place to go for some comfort when a student felt sick or had an injury. "Can I go to the nurse?" has never been the question a teacher enjoys hearing. But, Jamestown School Nurse Renie Sullivan has helped to change that traditional image. Staff and students at the island's schools have embraced wellness awareness.

Sullivan, a veteran nurse in the local school system, has become a champion of the healthy lifestyle for students and staff.

Because of Sullivan's initiatives, the Jamestown School Department was honored May 28 with the Achievement Worksite Health Award, sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Companies and organizations across the state were recognized at the awards event for their efforts in providing health awareness programs, policies and other healthrelated activities for their employees.

Sullivan explains that throughout the country Americans are switching from a practice of caring for illness to preventative health measures. "Policies at the district, state and national levels want health promotion," she says. "It makes me be more creative."

The change has been challenging, but rewarding. Some of Sullivan's creative initiatives include weight loss clinics, blood pressure monitoring and a bike club for staff, to name a few.

Sullivan has the advantage of a strong network to help with ideas. As a member of the Certified School Nurses of Rhode Island, Sullivan meets with other school nurses four to five times a year. They brainstorm together, and share programs that have been successful. "We also get help from the Department of Education," she adds.

Bethany Costello of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce explained the motivation for the recognition. "It means they (Jamestown Schools) are making real progress in today's economic climate, promoting wellness within each organization." Costello explained how tightening economic times have driven up hospital and insurance costs. Education and healthy activities help to avoid doctor's bills.

The Providence Chamber has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island for a number of years, according to Costello. The awards committee, made up of representatives from the chamber and Blue Cross, reviews applications and evaluates company-sponsored activities that demonstrate a commitment to employees' well-being. "We recognize organizations that offer health management programs to their employees, provide a lot of health information and focus on the importance of a healthy lifestyle," Costello added. "We have a subset of criteria. We look for tobacco cessation or weight loss implementation." Weight lecturers and walking programs have become common. "Wellness awareness is growing," she said.

With prompting from the U.S. Department of Health back in the late 1990s, the Worksite Wellness Council was formed in the state in order to promote public health in the workplace. Last year, the Wellness Councils of America designated Rhode Island as the first "Well State" in the nation. This designation was earned when 20 percent of the workforce (101,000 people) was employed in award winning "Well Workplaces" at the end of 2006.

Jamestown Schools is now recognized as a proud contributor to the growing numbers of health-conscious communities in the state.

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