Looking for health problems in our students
By Regina Reagan
A recent health study conducted by Jefferson Hospital on area students revealed an alarming trend: many Jefferson County youth are already on a crash course towards debilitating health issues as they grow older.
Those findings were presented in April to school officials and to the Jefferson County Board of Education (BOE) at their regular meeting last Thursday, May 12. Hospital officials were very clear on their verdict: Unless drastic changes are made in the living and eating habits of many of the county's youth, a large percentage of these students are in danger of heart and circulatory problems as well as diabetes.
"What we found was very alarming," Sharl Ann Trussell, FNP, said.
The results supported recent findings that, for the first time ever, the life expectancy of this generation will be less than that of their parents' generation.
The study and health screenings included checking blood pressure, obesity, and blood glucose and lipid levels in all fourth, eighth and twelfth graders in the Jefferson County School System. The study was made possible by a $90,000 grant from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation.
Trussell reported that there was an impressive 85-98 percent participation in the school system due to teacher, parent, children, administrator and other's cooperation.
"Everybody participated," Trussell said. "Everyone was so willing to do whatever we needed them to do."
level helped to insure that the samples taken served as an accurate representation of each grade.
Trussell, along with representatives from Jefferson Hospital, presented their findings to the Jefferson County Board of Education at the board's regular May meeting last Thursday.
"You're going to hear some pretty hard facts," Jefferson Hospital Director Rita Culvern told BOE members. "We knew that we had some serious health problems in our local population, but now we've been able to document those problems in our area children."
Of the samples taken from students tested at Carver Elementary School (CES), 16 percent recorded an abnormal blood pressure range of greater than 122/80. That was compared to 22 percent at Louisville Academy (LA) and 6 percent at Wrens Elementary School (WES) that also tested in that abnormal blood pressure range.
The students' body mass index (BMI) results were presented next.
At CES, 0 percent of students tested were found to be underweight, 38 percent were at risk of becoming underweight, 32 percent were in the normal weight range and 30 percent were overweight. At LA, 1 percent were underweight, 32 percent were at risk of becoming underweight, 40 percent were in the normal range and 28 percent were overweight. And tests showed that at WES 0 percent were underweight, 23 percent were at risk of becoming underweight, 41 percent found themselves in the normal weight range and 27 percent found themselves in the overweight range.
"What really concerns me is that these children are already overweight when they're eight years old," Trussell said.
The participants' glucose levels were tested as well to determine risk of diabetes. Each student was asked to refrain from eating breakfast the morning of the test so that the blood glucose readings would be accurate.
Sixty-two percent of CES students fell in the normal 70 to 94 range, and 38 percent fell in the at risk group of 95 or higher. Zero percent tested in the greater than 126 range. Sixty-seven percent of LA students tested normal for blood glucose levels, 33 percent were at risk for diabetes and 1 percent had a blood glucose level above 126. Diagnosis of diabetes will be made once a person receives more than two readings above 126. Finally, at WES, 82 percent tested normal, 33 percent tested at risk and 0 percent tested at diagnosis level.
The last disturbing results shared were that 37 percent of CES participants, 28 percent of LA participants and 33 percent of WES participants had lipid abnormalities.
A higher percentage of students at both Louisville Middle School (LMS) and Wrens Middle School (WMS) fared worse than the elementary school students with blood pressure results, and Jefferson County High School (JCHS) fared even worse than the middle schools. Both middle schools had 32 percent in the abnormal range and JCHS had a massive 42 percent.
Unlike the blood pressure results, the results of blood glucose testing at the three schools fared better than at the elementary school level. At LMS 95 percent of students tested had normal blood glucose levels and the remaining 5 percent were at risk for diabetes. At WMS a perfect 100 percent had normal blood glucose levels, and at JCHS 89 percent tested normal and the remaining 11 percent tested at risk for diabetes.
Concerning BMI, 0 percent at all three schools were underweight and 18 percent at LMS, and 6 percent at both WMS and JCHS were at risk of becoming underweight. Forty-four percent at LMS, 42 percent at WMS and 55 percent at JCHS were within the normal BMI range, but 33 percent at LMS, 40 percent at WMS and 39 percent at JCHS were overweight.
Lastly, lipid abnormalities were found in 20 percent of the samples taken from students tested at LMS, 8 percent at WMS and 22 percent at JCHS.
After the results were presented, solutions were discussed.
No definite actions were decided upon, but replacing chips and candies currently present in the vending machines at schools, which are turned on after regular school hours, with healthy alternatives like nutritional fruit bars was discussed. Programs that would incorporate exercise with a student's lessons during the first ten minutes of class were discussed as well. Also parent involvement in a child's life was stressed.
Dr. James Polhill, of Physicians Health Group, reiterated this point to board members Thursday. "Every year, more and more responsibility is put on our school systems to do more with our children. In some cases we have these children for more time than their parents do, so it's up to us to set some examples for a healthy lifestyle," he said.
"Our children are going to die if we don't make a difference," Trussell said. "We must do something."
(News and Farmer Staff writer Ben Roberts contributed to this article.)
Human remains found in woods
• Authorities say it's much too early to give an identity or determine if foul play was involved
By Ben Roberts
The partial remains of a human skeleton have been found in northern Burke County, but officials say it's too early to tell if this could be a case of foul play.
According to Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey, a portion of a skull and several other bone fragments were found around 10 a.m. Monday morning in the northwest corner of the county.
A registered forester and a timber buyer were walking a stand of planted pines just off Farmers Bridge Road, about six-tenths of a mile south of the Burke County-Richmond County line when they stumbled across the bones, Coursey said.
The forester, Levi Smith, 30, of North Augusta, said he found the skull, partially buried face-down and in a slight depression, just off a woods road about 100-yards into the property.
"I thought it was a bleached-out turtle shell at first," Smith said. "Then I realized it was some sort of bone, maybe even a skull, so I dug around it with my pocket-knife. When I turned it over, I saw the eye sockets and knew it was human."
Smith said he then noticed a few scattered bones around the area. He and the other man immediately walked back to the county road and contacted the Burke County Sheriff's Office.
"If I had seen the other bones first, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell what they were; but I'm pretty familiar with what a [human] skull looks like," Smith said.
Sheriff Coursey said his investigators are working with crime-scene specialists out of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's (GBI) Thomson office, but that as of Monday afternoon, few facts about the remains had been determined.
"It's too early to know right now what we've found," Coursey said, noting that in his estimation, the remains did not appear to have been buried in that location. At this point, investigators have no clue as to the sex or age of the bones either. "Wherever they came from, they look like they've been there a while."
Coursey said it's possible the bones could have come from a cemetery or former home place on the property.
There are currently no missing persons of record in Burke County, but Coursey said his office would contact surrounding counties when they knew more about what they'd found.
Smith said information he had on the land stated there was an old cemetery on the property, but it did not specify where. He did point out the trees in the stand where he found the skull were between 18 and 21 years old.
Gary Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge for the GBI office in Thomson, said it could be some time before investigators knew more about what they'd found. The process, he said, is painstaking.
"It's not unusual in these situations to find scattered bones where nature or animals have moved them all over," Nicholson said. "Our agents are starting a grid search to see if they can locate anything more."
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins, Bill "Bo Peep" Farrer is the only missing person on record for the county. Farrer has been missing since Sept. 12, 2002.
His truck, fishing boat and gear were found on the following day at a landing on Rocky Comfort Creek in western Jefferson County.
County votes to add user fees, acquire rights to road
• County residents age 75 or older will be exempt from the $100 fee; County to proceed with Shady Oaks Road acquisition
By Ben Roberts
Jefferson County commissioners voted unanimously at their regular May meeting to begin charging residents in unincorporated areas a $100 landfill user's fee - but they did so reluctantly.
That user's fee will be charged to every residence in the county's unincorporated areas beginning Jan. 1, 2006. It will be added to the property tax bill for the owner of the residence as of Jan. 1.
The user's fee will also apply to residents in the city of Avera, since the county currently hauls their garbage to the landfill.
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Residents in the cities of Wrens, Louisville, Wadley, Stapleton and Bartow all pay for garbage pickup through a private hauler, who in turn pays a tipping fee to dump at the landfill.
Commissioner Tommy New began the discussion on the landfill by making a motion not to discuss it at all since the fee would not be included on this year's tax bill.
County Administrator Paul Bryan explained that in order to get the fee on mobile home tax bills, which are mailed in January, the commission would have to approve the fee before July 1 of this year. An exasperated New then withdrew his motion.
He did, however, move to make residents age 75 or over exempt from the fee for their actual residence. Owners of rental properties, or other residences in which they do not reside, who are over age 75 would still have to pay the fee for those houses.
"I know for some people this is going to be unpopular," New said, "but we've tried for years to get away from burdening the taxpayers with the cost of the landfill by adopting a user's fee … In my opinion, its time some government entity recognize that our elderly are doing all they can."
Commissioner Johnny Davis gave New's motion a second, but he said he'd like to see the cutoff age drop to 65. After some discussion, it was agreed to stick with New's original proposal of a cutoff at 75 years of age.
The first reading of the resolution was approved by a vote of 4-0, with Gonice Davis absent from Tuesday's meeting.
Commissioners also voted to authorize county attorney Mickey Moses to begin the process for acquiring the right of way on Shady Oaks Road in the northeast area of the county near Matthews, even if it means eventually condemning the needed portions of an owner's property that refuses to sign over his right of way.
Moses warned commissioners the process could be an expensive one as well as being drawn out over a period of time.
"Well, this will start the process," New said. "You've got to either start it or tell the people you aren't going to do it."