The student sat still, a stethoscope on their heart, an otoscope in their ears and an ophthalmoscope waved over their eyes.
This is just part of the routine our brilliant team of health professionals undertake when assessing every child at St Jude’s from head to toe, when they visit the school each year.
They’re ensuring students can read their school blackboards and books, hear their teachers and are fit for class.
It’s no small task to adequately assess the needs of 1,800 students in just two weeks, but with decades of experience in a range of medical fields, the team saw the students in record time. The team then use their findings to refer students to medical professionals in Arusha for further assessment and support.
With an even wider variety of clinicians this year, there was an increased focus on ‘Orthoptics’ where students received a more in-depth assessment of their eyes and more recommendations could be made.
The multi-disciplinary team also included a wellbeing group, comprising of social workers and school psychologists, who held professional development seminars to help teachers identify and address mental health issues students may experience.
For Melbourne Physiotherapist, Jane Larkin, who co-led the Health Check program in its twelfth year, it’s about making a tangible difference during their two-week stay.
“These students come and get ten minutes of our time and it can be life changing for them. There was a student that thought she would never be able to board at St Jude’s because of her health, but now as a 17-year-old she is studying and living with her peers in boarding and absolutely thriving. Being able to facilitate that transition and for St Jude’s to source things to meet her needs, I think has made a huge difference for that student, “ Jane smiled.
Newcomer to the Health Check team this year but long-term sponsor, Kerrie, was part of the team that checked each child’s height, weight and BMI. Not only does this highlight malnourished students who can be given an increased diet, these measurements are also a requirement from the Tanzanian government.
“I was impressed with how many students were really interested in finding out about their health. The older ones even wanted to know what the nutrition protocol from the World Health Organisation was for their age,” Kerrie reflected.
It was a special moment when the students whose academic scholarships Kerrie sponsors went through the checks.
“It was very emotional because I hadn’t seen the girls for six years, since I last was at the school, and it was just so rewarding to see how well they are doing, how healthy they are and how well they are getting on at school,” Kerrie gushed.
For the Sunshine Coast local it’s been a privilege watching the growth of the school and its students.
“I’ve noticed since I visited six years ago just how everyone’s health and wellbeing has improved. The students were really open and welcoming, they just wanted to chat and engage with you,” Kerrie expressed.
The team are vowing they’ll continue to contribute for another decade, but their ultimate goal is to help upskill local Tanzanian staff, so that more minds and bodies can be kept healthy all year round, one checkup at a time.
“For us to be able to screen these students and find local follow up here in Arusha, it can actually make a difference,” Jane smiled, proudly looking at her team.