By Karen Angelo
Attendees of a recent River Hawks hockey game arrived at the Tsongas Center to find the lobby brimming with activity: Children were running in place, inspecting the cleanliness of their hands with an ultraviolet light and guessing the amount of sugar in soft drinks.
College of Health Sciences students designed these activities to educate kids about health in a fun way before the College of Health Sciences Alumni Night with the River Hawks.
The event coincided with National Wear Red Day, an initiative of the American Heart Association to raise awareness in the fight against the No. 1 killer of women – heart disease. Postcards with a small red dress pin and tips on how to live healthier lives were handed out to attendees.
Despite the snowy weather, loyal fans and friends of the College of Health Sciences showed up to cheer on the River Hawks and make connections with old acquaintances and new.
“Our goal was to welcome our alumni and their families to campus while also raising awareness of heart disease. I am very proud of all of our students who were challenged to come up with activities that would engage and interest children in health,” says Dean Shortie McKinney of the College of Health Sciences.”
Nursing, public health and exercise physiology students created the activities, knowing that they needed to grab attention as people headed for their seats.
Exercise Physiology student Aaron Holmberg and his team used a pulse oximeter, a small monitor that attaches to a fingertip to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation of blood, to show kids how exercise effects heart rate.
“First, we took the heart rates of the kids with the pulse oximeters and then we had them run in place for 15 seconds,” says Holmberg who is also an Exercise Physiology Ambassador, a representative of the program that promotes the profession to potential students. “Then they used the device to find their heart rates again and see if they were elevated from the exercise. We advised the kids to stay active and try different types of sports and activities.”
Nursing major Shannon Arruda, who plans to work in labor and delivery once she graduates, enjoyed the public health aspect of the activities.
“Community health is a big part of nursing and the key to staying healthy is washing your hands,” says Arruda, who is a member of the L.E.A.P. for Health, a student organization that promotes community health education at the university and surrounding communities. “Everyone who guessed the amount of sugar in certain drinks was shocked to find out the real answer.”
The activities were not only beneficial for the kids who stopped by but also for the students as they witnessed the connections between their course work and the real world.
Says Holmberg: “My favorite moment was when we tested the heart rates of three siblings of different ages. We learn in class that younger children have higher resting heart rates and they tend to get lower as the age. The oldest child had the lowest heart rate and then the next child was higher and so forth. While there wasn’t much of a difference, the principle we learned was there. These moments where I can connect what we have learned to a real-life application is what I enjoy the most.”