DMU helps kids stay healthy


They say it takes a village to raise a child. On July 27, it took a village to help kids stay active: Des Moines University, the Polk County (IA) Health Department and other local agencies partnered to provide free school physicals and a variety of other health services to an estimated 1,800 youth at Des Moines’ East High School.

Held in past years on the DMU campus, this year Jumpstart School Physicals offered expanded services including physicals, immunizations, dental screenings, lead tests, EKGs and mental health screenings to Polk County kids in kindergarten through 12th grade. The event also provided help with health and dental insurance applications and information on after-school programming.

This year, volunteers provided 1,189 physicals; 112 general health screenings; 560 dental screenings; and 250 immunizations. They also gave away 1,800 free backpacks full of school supplies.

“Jumpstart makes it easy for families who do not have adequate health insurance to get their check-ups and school supplies all at once,” says Sarah Boese, Polk County Health Department educator, public information officer and planning committee chair.

Jumpstart services are “essential at helping kids be successful in school,” she adds.

In addition to DMU students, faculty and staff volunteers, participants in the event included dentists, dental assistants and representatives from 
I-Smile, a state program that connects Iowa children with dental services; the Polk County Health Department; Freedom for Youth Ministries; and more than 30 local translators. The involvement of these individuals and entities represented a change from past years.

“Jumpstart is a perfect example of how important partnerships are in the community. DMU, along with the Polk County Health Department and many other entities, worked very hard to make this event happen,” says Melissa Wilder, DMU’s community relations manager. “In the past, the most kids we’ve ever seen for our physicals day was around 500. Because of the new changes implemented this year, we were able to more than triple that number.”

Jumpstart is a win-win for all participants.

“It was a great opportunity for people to get the health care they need and deserve, and it helped me give back to the community,” says Jumpstart volunteer Mike Patten, D.O.’16. “We also got to interact with other health care professionals. To be able to use and practice all the skills I’m learning at DMU was a wonderful gift.”

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