As a parent or guardian, you are understandably concerned about your child’s health and privacy. Unfortunately, we are beginning to see potential risk factors for heart disease in students as young as grade 5. These risk factors include high “bad” cholesterol, high blood pressure, and more. Heart Niagara’s Healthy Heart Schools’ Program aims to empower young people and reduce the rate of heart disease by providing education, personal health information, and communicating with teachers, parents, and doctors. You can play an important role in this mission.

When the questionnaire booklet comes home with your child, please consider taking a few minutes to help them complete the questions to the best of their ability. In particular, it is often difficult for students to provide an accurate family history, home address, and the name of their family doctor. Grade 9 students will have a detailed results letter mailed home and to their health care practitioner if we have that mailing information. Both grade 7 and 9 students will also be given a take-home sheet.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email Heart Niagara. Below, we’ve also listed some of the most common questions we’ve heard from parents. Please note that there is a cholesterol test only in the grade 9 program.

“My daughter is more aware of healthy options – stairs vs. elevator, chips vs. carrots and the effects on her body.” – Parent in Port Colborne

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is all information kept confidential? What happens with the information you collect? All information is handled in a confidential manner and is stored in a secure and private location. No information is shared with researchers unless we have a written agreement with them and ethics fundamentals are met. Research is conducted with aggregate data, meaning that information on trends may be published but student names and any identifying information is never made public.

2. Are all of the questions age appropriate? Why are you asking kids about smoking or eating habits? Although it can be shocking to some parents, we know that, unfortunately, some kids start smoking as young as grade 5. By grade 7, we do actually have students who report having tried cigarettes. By grade 7, some students have also begun to develop unhealthy relationships with food. Heart Niagara is asking questions about these behaviours to better develop resources to help students improve their heart health.

3. My child is self-conscious about his/her weight or body. What will be done to make him/her more comfortable? Height, weight, and waist circumference are measured behind privacy barriers. Students do not need to share these numbers with their classmates. Additionally, students are never forced to have these measurements taken and can still participate in the cholesterol test, blood pressure measurements, and CPR training.

4. My child is not participating in part of the program (e.g. cholesterol test, or height and weight), do we still have to fill-out the booklet? Please sign and have your child complete the questionnaire booklet even if they will opt-out of part of the program.

5. What am I supposed to do with the note that comes home? Areas of possible concern are highlighted in yellow. We recommend that students with highlighted risk factors simply seek a follow-up appointment with their family healthcare provider. Having highlighted sections does not necessarily mean that your child is unhealthy.

6. Is the cholesterol test invasive? The cholesterol test is just a quick, finger-prick test which is done by a health care professional (e.g. a nurse). It is similar to what diabetics have to do on a regular basis. This test is done using modern, safe, clean, and effective equipment.

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