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School Health Services and Millennium Development Goals

Background: School health services are geared at preventing, protecting and improving the health status of the school population to enable them benefit fully from the school system. The year 2015 is the target date for the attainment of the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in September 2000. Coverage of immunisation against measles and prevalence of underweight children under five years are both indicators for tracking attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 1 and 4 – eradicate extreme hunger and poverty and reduce child mortality.

Aims and Objectives: The objective of this study was to determine the immunization and nutrition status as well as general well-being of primary school children through pre-enrolment medical examination.

Methods/Study Design: A rural community in southern Nigeria was chosen for this pilot study, which was cross-sectional in design and conducted in 2010. The study instrument was a pre-enrolment medical examination form adopted from that provided by the State Ministry of Health. All newly enrolled school children in all three primary schools in the community were examined by medical doctors who completed the section on physical examination of the form. Nurses and volunteer assistants took the heights and weights of the children. Personal details and medical history of the examined children were thereafter obtained from the parents/guardians who were requested to give the dates their children received routine immunization, with photocopies of the immunization record where available. The heights and weights of the children were used to assess nutritional status by comparing with growth standards from the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study. Data were analysed using Epi Info version 3.5.1.

Results/Findings: A total of 95 children were examined males being 54.7% while females were 45.3%. Medical history was provided for 46 children, 54.3% of which had evidence of completing routine immunization including measles. Calculation of height-for-age revealed stunting and severe stunting in 16.3% and 18.6% of children respectively. Of those whose weights-for-age were calculated, 2.6% were underweight while 7.9% were severely underweight. Scarification marks were found on the abdomen of 34.7% of the children examined, denoting traditional treatment for a previous episode of severe febrile illness such as malaria. Splenomegaly was detected in 9.5%.

Study Limitation: The study was limited by the poor response from parents and guardians in providing personal details and medical history from examined children.

Conclusion: School health services can provide data for monitoring, evaluating and improving child survival strategies beginning at the community level.

Author(s): Mininim Oseji , Anthony Okolo

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