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Neveln 1 of 5 pilot schools for asthma software

Neveln Elementary School is the place to go for research projects, it seems.

The Austin school is one of five pilot schools for a new software system that identifies and coordinates asthma plans between parents, schools and health providers.

District staff applied to take part in the Southeast Minnesota Beacon Program, a federally funded research project designed to increase communication between schools, parents and health providers by identifying students who may need asthma action plans and creating a parent-authorized, standards-based health information network.

“It’s meant to make a better collaboration,” said Heidi Doe, Nursing Coordinator at Austin Public Schools.

Doe said schools currently act as a go-between for parents and health providers when it comes to figuring out what to do when a child suffers an asthma attack. The Beacon program aims to fix that through better communication.

Neveln will be one of five schools to use Beacon software which creates an “instant connection with the provider and the parent,” according to Doe. School staff will collect data on student asthma action plans and monitor health incidents for all students throughout the year.

“We will get any asthma plans for our students right into the system,” she said.

That’s good news for the 54 Neveln students who are identified as having asthma. Of those 54, about 20 students need an inhaler on a consistent basis, according to Doe.

Neveln staff will receive Beacon software within the next few weeks, and district officials plan to start the program next fall. If all goes well, the software may go district-wide by 2014. About 450 of the district’s 4,600 or so students report having asthma this year, according to Doe. If all goes well, similar programs could be used for other student conditions like diabetes.

“The end goal for everyone involved is to be able to provide [information] as quickly as possible,” Doe said.

This is the second research program Neveln students will help with next school year, as school staff is partnering with Hormel Foods Corp. researchers on a breakfast initiative this fall. District staff and Hormel officials announced the partnership in March. Neveln first-graders will assist Hormel researchers in figuring out whether U.S. students face a protein deficiency at breakfast by tracking what students eat each morning and examining what students eat at school. Students will also learn about nutrition.

The research proposal comes on the heels of Project Spammy, a Hormel initiative designed to provide nutrition to needy children around the world. The nutrition supplement called Spammy is sent to children in Guatemala since the country faces an epidemic of stunted growth, often caused by a lack of protein.

While Hormel researchers carry out Project Spammy, some officials couldn’t help but wonder what implications Spammy may have in the U.S.