School absenteeism due to illness is not fiction. In the United States, there are approximately 164 MILLION lost school days each year among students in kindergarten to grade 12 which averages out to 4.5 sick days per student per year. In fact, some studies have shown that kindergarteners on average have 12 colds a year, while older kids develop about seven. In a society where school reimbursement is directly related to attendance, this can mean the loss of a significant portion of the schools funding. Reimbursement numbers vary from district to district, but generally, average $30 – $50 per student
To help combat the spread of illness and lost school time it incurs, Kiptopeke Elementary School is participating in a national school health program that is aimed to keep kids healthy this school year through technology. They are part of this year’s FLUency program, a national health program by Kinsa, a company that makes smart thermometers that help parents and school nurses know what illnesses are going around their schools.
FLUency is a philanthropic program that reduces the spread of illness in elementary schools. The program offers free, app-enabled thermometers to all families and school staff, which they use to understand their children’s health and the health of those around them.
In a conversation with Nita Nehru, Kinsa’s FLUency Director, she told the Mirror, “An example, is where you can see three reports of strep throat in one grade, and reports of a cough in another, so if your daughter comes home and complains about a sore throat, knowing that strep is going around, you be more likely to take her to the doctor rather than sending her to school and potentially infecting other students.”
The mission of the FLUency program is to build a local earlier defense, earlier response mechanism. Understanding what is happening at school you are more likely to increase preventative measures at home, such as more disinfection and making sure kids are washing their hands.
The Kinsa smart thermometer connects to an app on your phone, and while it gives an accurate temperature, it also guides parents through next steps if fever and symptoms continue. The thermometer tracks symptoms, such as a continued runny nose, cough and sore throat which a parent can share with the doctor.
Using this data, parents, and teachers can join a private anonymous group to share this information. Tracking your child’s illness through the Kinsa app feeds that information into the private group. Essentially, the Kinsa app aggregates the data to create a picture and narrative of the health situation at your school.
The FLUency program is not necessarily about changing behavior but is leveraging what has always been happening. Parents have always conversed and shared health information either at the pickup line or at the playground or sports events. The FLUency program attempts to take all of those sometimes one-off conversations and put them in a mechanism to provide more knowledge of what is going around in the school.
With the help of Lysol, Kinsa will provide all families in the participating schools with free smart thermometers that connect to the Kinsa app so parents can see what illness (strep throat, chicken pox, lice, etc.) is going around their schools.
The school is among the 500 available spots nationally for the program – and what’s even more interesting is that Kiptopeke Elementary has some of the highest participation rates in the program.