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New School Program Focuses On Disease Awareness

School Program Focuses On Awareness, Early Diagnosis Of Children With Primary Immunodeficiencies

School nurses reach 98% of the 50,000,000 students in U.S. public schools, grades k-12, and are uniquely positioned to facilitate the early diagnosis of serious medical conditions such as primary immunodeficiency (PI).

Even when symptoms are recognized and an appropriate referral is made, diagnosing PI can still be challenging because there are more than 250 PIs and they do not always present in clear patterns. As a result, the underlying cause often goes undetected.

In an effort to reduce the number of undiagnosed cases of PI in school children, the Pennsylvania company CSL Behring has awarded a Local Empowerment Advocacy Development (LEAD) grant to the Jeffrey Modell Foundation (JMF) to develop an education campaign in collaboration with the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). The campaign will help nurses recognize the symptoms of PI in school children and facilitate their referral to a physician.

PIs, according to Vicki Modell, Co-Founder of JMF, are underdiagnosed in children who present with chronic, recurring, and persistent infections. "Quite often, school nurses are the first 'line of defense,' in recognizing that these children suffer from repeated infections and missed days at school," Modell said. "Educating school nurses about the immune system and the 10 warning signs of primary immunodeficiency will lead to early and precise diagnosis, appropriate treatment and improved quality of life."

NASN is customizing content supplied by JMF to meet the needs and appeal to school nurses as part of the PI awareness campaign. This includes producing English and Spanish-version posters that will be mailed to its approximately 16,000 members. NASN will distribute another 1,500 posters in conference bags at its annual meeting. 

In addition, NASN will leverage its journal, websites, social media and weekly digest banner placement to promote PI awareness.

A second communication to school nurses reinforcing messaging around PI will also be distributed. In April, NASN will plan promotional activities around World PI Week, including a radio podcast episode, social media posts, a weekly digest and banner.

Dennis Jackman, CSL Behring's senior vice president for global healthcare policy and external affairs, said educating more school nurses about PIs can have far reaching impact on students and their communities. "Arming school nurses with the knowledge to more quickly recognize symptoms of primary immunodeficiencies, and encouraging them to have candid conversations with students and their families about the disorder, will lead to improved student well-being and success," Jackman said.


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