Worms partly responsible for lower academic results among children

The interim results of the DASH study were presented at the Urban Health Conference on 7 and 8 February 2017 in Cape Town as a case study in a panel discussion (link). Furthermore, a continuation of the project was discussed.

Prof. Cheryl Walter and her research team at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University received the Certificate of Appreciation by the headmaster of Hillcrest Primary in 2016 and the Token of Appreciation from the Province of Eastern Cape Education.

Allergy study within DASH wins aha!award

In the framework of the DASH study, primary schoolchildren in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, were examined with regard to sensitization to frequent aero- (e.g. grass pollen, house dust mites and cat epithelia) and food allergens as well as disorders from the so-called atopic group (allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, allergic asthma and neurodermatitis).

The aim of the project is to identify children with allergies in order to provide them with adequate therapy and to train the parents or legal guardians in dealing with the diseases. In addition, the results of these studies are to be correlated with the results obtained from the DASH study, in order to discover possible interrelationships between allergic diseases and e.g. worm infections or psychosocial health. The jury of the aha!award 2016 of the Allergy Center Switzerland awarded the study “Prevalence of sensitization against frequent allergens and atopic diseases in schoolchildren in Port Elizabeth, South Africa” ​​with a prize. Further information can be found at www.aha.ch

Presentations were held and dissemination of the parasitological results of the DASH study promoted to the local community at SAAHE conference (http://www.saaheconf.co.za/2016-presentations.html), Department of Health and Anti Poverty Steering Committee Meeting of the Port Elizabeth municipality.

Thank you to Carved Unlimited  in Port Elizabeth for sponsoring the painted game stencils, used in creating colourful playgrounds at the DASH project schools and PasSPORT to Health project schools.

Staff and post-grad students from the Department of Biomedical Sciences were trained in the laboratory methods used in the study, namely the Kato-Katz method and for various rapid diagostic tests. These methods are now being used in a subsequent research project with pre-schools children.

We would like to thank wholeheartedly the whole lab team for doing very reliable and accurate work!

T3, Week 4: 23 - 27 May 2016

This past week we have completed testing at Walmer and Helenvale Primary Schools, in addition to catching up with some absent children at Hillcrest, De Vos Malan, Walmer, Sapphire, Enkwenkwezini Primary Schools, thus concluding the fourth week of our testing phase.
We were faced some unique challenges when we had to do testing at Walmer Primary because:

  • In the previous week (16 -20 May 2016), the school principal informed us that three children had been killed in a fire that broke out in their home, which was merely just a shack. This was obviously very traumatizing and sent shock waves through the entire school. On the morning we arrived at the school, to avoid causing an upset with the teachers and students, we first had to make sure that these children were not a part of the DASH study. The principal confirmed that the children were in Grade R, Grade 2 and Grade 3 (aged 5, 7 and 8 years old), and therefore were not included in the study. This brought some relief to us as a team; however, still an unfortunate and distressing circumstance through which we had to proceed with testing.
  • Furthermore, the day before going to the school to do catch up with the absentees, teachers, parents and students were striking because of the teacher shortages at the school. Luckily, when we contacted the school on the day we wanted to do the catch up, school had recommenced as per normal.

On a lighter note, testing ran smoothly. The weather certainly seemed to be a team player this week; we ought to be in the middle of the autumn season, but it sure felt like summer all week. We had some good fun with the children, playing some music and watching them dance whilst they waited to be tested. Even some of the DASH assistants joined in to enjoy the lively atmosphere.

T3, Week 5: 30 May – 03 June 2016

After a strenuous and tiring 5 weeks, we have finally reached our final week of testing: the catch-up week. On Monday, we completed the final 2 schools of catching up at Helenvale and B.J. Mnyanda Primary Schools; bringing us to the conclusion of testing at all 8 schools. Data capturing is still in progress, but we hope to finalize all data entries by mid-week next week.
In comparison to previous rounds of testing, T3 has by far been the most efficient round:

  • T1: Spending 4 days at a school = 2 months testing and data capturing phase;
  • T2: Reduced to 2 days per school, but due to strikes and the lengthy data capturing process = 2 months testing and data-capturing phase; and
  • T3: Still 2 days per school, including strikes and the lengthy data capturing process = currently at 1 month and 1 week testing and data capturing phase.

Now, all that’s left is the final results.

Project Location

We just finished the third week of testing and we are very content with our progress in the past weeks. Due to unexpected teacher strikes in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth we had to change our testing schedule and go to a school located in a different area. Luckily B.J. Mnyanda was able to accommodate us on short notice and we were able to proceed with our testing. We have also been very lucky with the weather and all our outdoor activities ran smoothly so far. The kids know most of the tests and are always very eager and excited to participate.
We have now almost completed testing at 6 schools and are starting with the last two schools next week.

We would like to thanks A-bay for the kind donation of 1,000 pencils and 1,000 rulers, supplied to the learners in the DASH project.

PasSPORT to Health (Promoting Physical Activity and School SPORT)

The PasSPORT to Health Project was initiated in 2010 by Prof. Cheryl Walter, from the Department of Human Movement Science (HMS), at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The project is aimed at promoting physical activity and sport in disadvantaged schools and communities in and around Port Elizabeth. The project involves Human Movement Science students who put theory into practice as they work with schools and communities in sport development.
Three schools are selected annually to be a part of the project. Thus far, 18 schools and their communities have benefitted from their involvement in the project. Students and staff of the HMS department are challenged to create physical activity-friendly environments at schools and to promote sport development.

The interventions entail:

  • simple court and wall markings for traditional games;
  • activity circuits to promote fitness and motor development;
  • basic sport equipment – netball posts, soccer and rugby posts, volleyball poles etc.;
  • small sports equipment -  balls for different sports, beacons, skipping ropes, exercise ladders, hula hoops, stopwatches, whistles, colour bands;
  • leadership and team building camps for youths; and
  • sport coaching and the training of coaches, for after-school sports programmes.

HMS students “put theory into practice”. Students undertake a needs analyses, research various intervention options, and present their ideas to staff of the three schools. Each intervention is tailored to meet the circumstances and needs of the specific schools. Students were guided through the processes of writing up funding proposals for the project, obtaining sponsorships/funding, and then implementing the intervention at their respective schools, going through the management processes of planning, organizing, leading and controlling.
The interventions are tailored to meet the schools’ needs and cost approximately R20 000 per school to implement (dependant on money raised). The PasSPORT to Health Project is a project of the Department of Human Movement Science at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. All funds sponsored are spent on the project schools and their communities.

Active schoolchildren throughout the physical fitness tests.

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