School Principal Got Health Wake-up Call at FirstHealth Screening
State Grant Funded School Health Screening
The FirstHealth Mobile Health Services screening that kick-started Mike Metcalf's successful personal health journey was funded by a grant from the Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project (COPDP) of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The grant provided a screening for every public school in Moore County, including Southern Middle in Aberdeen, where Metcalf is principal.
According to Chris Miller, administrative director of FirstHealth Community Health Services, educators - like nurses, ministers, social workers and other professionals in the business of caring for people - can get so wrapped up in the welfare of others that they sometimes forget to take care of themselves. Often, they just don't have the time.
"The screening events are a good way to remind individuals that if they don't take care of themselves, they won't be healthy enough to take care of others," Miller says. "They won't be able to live out their passion, which is caring for others. Thankfully, we are able to find individuals like Dr. Metcalf and help get them to their medical provider."
The COPDP grant allowed FirstHealth Mobile Health Services to take diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure screenings directly to the schools - just as the program goes regularly to churches, senior centers, work sites and other convenient locations throughout the community.
Walmart, Aberdeen Parks and Recreation, and the FirstHealth Centers for Health and Fitness routinely welcome Mobile Health visits. Gulistan Carpet in Aberdeen hosts a well-attended screening event each year, and Mobile Health Services recently returned to the public schools for another staff screening program.
Mobile Health administrative assistant Rachael Lovin says the school system readily embraced the idea of the on-site screenings.
"They really wanted us to come to give them some ideas about where they stood (health-wise)," she says.
In addition to the blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes screenings offered at the schools, FirstHealth Mobile Health also provides screenings for prostate disease, vascular disease and osteoporosis. Some screenings are free, while others are offered at a minimal charge.
Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.
"We are trying to reduce emergency room visits and empower people to be more healthy and take care of themselves," says Lovin.
FirstHealth Mobile Health Services provides the community with convenient access to preventive health screenings at reduced fees. >
If you would like to host a screening at your church or civic organization, or if you would like information on upcoming Mobile Health screening events, call (888) 534-5333. >
Southern Middle School Principal Mike Metcalf likes to be up-front at school-sponsored events. He thinks it encourages others to participate, too.
As one of the first in line for a health screening offered at the school four years ago by FirstHealth Mobile Health Services, Metcalf was confident that his results would be good.
So confident, in fact, that he called out, "You're going to tell me that I'm going to live another 75 years" to the Mobile Health employee who had just done his blood draw.
The response, from administrative assistant Rachael Lovin, wasn't at all what he had anticipated: "Not with these numbers you're not," she replied.
Instead of the good news he had expected, Metcalf learned his cholesterol was high and his blood pressure was even worse.
"I thought she was joking," he recalls. "It scared the heck out of me."
Metcalf, who describes himself as "goal-oriented," headed straight for the school nurse for advice on what to do. He also talked to his P.E. teachers and then arranged to do something he hadn't done in a long time.
He had a physical.
"I didn't even have a doctor," he says.
According to Lovin, Metcalf's personal health profile (of no physician and no routine health care) is fairly typical of the people who turn out for FirstHealth Mobile Health screenings.
"We probably see more people without doctors than we do with," she says.
Unlike some "who just don't care," Lovin says, Metcalf took his screening numbers seriously. "He was really shocked at what his results were," she says, "because he had no symptoms. He said, 'I'm going to make these changes.'"
So began a personal health journey that also turned into a family and school endeavor. Metcalf's wife, daughters and staff rallied to his support, with many improving their own health situation as a result.
Metcalf, who is now 46, was determined to get his blood pressure and cholesterol down without medication. That meant changes to his lifestyle - not an easy thing for a busy professional with easy access to Aberdeen's infamous "Fast Food Row" and a penchant for packaged snacks.
"Potato chips were my friend," he says.
Instead of grabbing a fast food hamburger or taco during the infrequent times when he had lunch at all, Metcalf began to consider the high fat and salt content in processed foods and started bringing in leftovers from home. He also made himself take 25 or 30 minutes to sit down and eat.
Meals at home changed, too, to a more "Mediterranean-type diet" with less red meat.
Metcalf's wife, Tracy, a teacher at Union Pines, and daughters, Katie and Erin, embraced the changes, and not only began to eat what he ate but also to support his resolution to get more exercise. He and Tracy started working out in a weight center near their Whispering Pines home, and he and daughter Erin started running.
Erin now runs track and cross country at Union Pines, while her dad recently participated in his first marathon - the Tobacco Road Trail in Cary. He also took part in FirstHealth's fall Turkey Trot and says the Marine Corps Marathon is next on his agenda.
School support resulted in a variety of proactive health-related events, including a "Biggest Loser" program during which staff participants dropped a total of 1,200 pounds. Some of the same people also arranged and took part in the Hoyt Kennedy 5K Fun Run named for an SMS teacher who died after a sudden heart attack.
"The whole staff started to feel better about themselves," Metcalf says.
Always a concern, student health became even more of an emphasis for the school, where half of the 765 children qualify for free and reduced price lunches. Southern Middle recently welcomed FirstHealth health educators for a nutritional outreach program for its sixth-graders.
"We've got a good school community here," Metcalf says. "Everybody's been very supportive of each other."
Metcalf is also doing much better personally. He has lost weight, and a recent FirstHealth screening revealed numbers that were - while not yet perfect - much better than before. He also has more energy and isn't as easily stressed or fatigued.
He has made a commitment to better health and intends to keep it.
"I hope I don't get lazy again," he says.
Brenda Bouser works for the corporate communications office of FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
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