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Livingstone, Novant pair to screen students

SALISBURY – Livingstone College is committed to creating the healthiest student body in the country. The historically black liberal arts college has teamed up with Novant Health Foundation Rowan Medical Center to implement a campus-wide health and wellness program called MyQuest for Health Excellence.

The pilot program, modeled after Novant Health’s employee wellness program, has provided 800 students at the college with free Novant Health Remarkable You biometric screenings. The screenings check a student’s blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index.

The baseline information gathered from the screening is shared in individualized health coaching sessions between the students and staff at the college’s health center. There, the wellness coach suggests lifestyle changes, including exercise and dietary habits. Students who participate in the wellness program will be re-evaluated at least once a year to measure results, with those facing higher risks monitored with greater frequency.

Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins, the president of Livingstone College, came up with the concept as a way to address the health disparities he saw at the school and in the African-American community as a whole. “College should be about dealing with many of the issues generic to the population it serves,” Jenkins said. “We’re addressing health as part of our holistic environment.”

It was also a good fit for promoting the health system’s commitment to transforming lives, communities and health. “This partnership embodies the vision of Novant Health where we are committed to creating healthy communities, one person at a time, or in this instance – one student at a time,” said Dari Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Health Center.

Even though the college requires two semesters of physical education and offers informational wellness seminars, Livingstone’s students are still struggling with a number of health issues, including diabetes, high cholesterol, shortness of breath and other conditions.

Fifty percent of the female students who were treated at the center are considered overweight based on their BMI, while an additional 15 percent were in the obese range, according to Ann Peebles, Livingstone’s health center director.

Among male students seen at the health center, the incidence of obesity ranges between 15 and 20 percent, and 40 percent of male students were deemed overweight.

The grant money, provided by the Duke Endowment, is paying for the health coaches at the school as well as testing supplies. Novant Health Rowan Medical Center is providing the staff to do the screenings and perform the blood work and biometric testing.

“We’re teaching them to eat smarter, start a physical regimen and get that to become habit,” said Jenkins. “The students will carry that knowledge back to their families and the people they come in contact with.”

Students who complete all elements of the program are entered into a year-end raffle to win prizes for their success.

Obesity is a very real problem in the African-American community at large. Non-Hispanic African Americans as a population group have the highest rate of obesity at 47.8 percent.

At the very least, “it could mark the end of the freshman 15,” said Caldwell, referring to the common expression for weight packed on by students during their first year of college.

This partnership was financed in June 2014 by a $260,000 grant from the Duke Endowment based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke. The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. The endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

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