AAOS Bulletin - February, 2005

USBJD reaches out to high school students

Protect Your Bones debuts in six Ohio schools

By Toby King

Protect Your Bones, a program of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade (USBJD) aimed at educating high school students about musculoskeletal conditions and encouraging them to learn about prevention activity, made its debut during the Decade’s National Awareness Week last October. Results from the pilot activity, which reached more than 1,000 freshmen at six high schools in Cleveland, look most promising.

The program was developed by Michael DeFranco, MD, an orthopaedic surgery resident at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. DeFranco, who has a keen interest in the impact of musculoskeletal conditions, believed a significant contribution to reducing the future burden of disease could be obtained by raising awareness among the young.

He worked with Edward Benzel, MD, a neurosurgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and a Bone and Joint Decade ambassador, to develop a proposal to present to the USBJD Board. The USBJD, a network of nearly 100 organizations, was already interested in reaching the adolescent market and receptive to the idea.

Targeting teens

“If teens learn about bone and joint disorders, they can grow into adults who are aware of the activities that will prevent musculoskeletal disease and keep them active throughout their lives,” said Dr. DeFranco.

“High school freshman are old enough to understand the basic principles of musculoskeletal disorders. They are also being faced with more choices and independence in terms of diet, exposure to alcohol and drugs, and extracurricular activities such as driving. This transition gives us a prime opportunity to educate them on how these choices can affect their musculoskeletal system as they age,” he added.

In addition to Dr. Benzel, orthopaedic surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic who supported the program include Joseph Iannotti, MD, PhD, chairman, department of orthopaedics, and John A. Bergfeld, MD, director of medical affairs, Cleveland Clinic Sports Health.

Dr. DeFranco contacted the head of the Cleveland public schools and two private schools about the program. All were enthusiastic. Residents, fellows in training and nurses from The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland volunteered to help. The residents were responsible for teaching physician assistants, nurses and medical and college students the information to be presented to the high school freshmen.

One-hour sessions

The one-hour interactive lecture began and ended with a quiz (10 multiple choice questions) on the principles and prevention of musculoskeletal disease. After an introduction to the Bone and Joint Decade, the focus shifted to a discussion of trauma (fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains), arthritis and osteoporosis.

Two celebrities—Andra Davis of the Cleveland Browns and Austin Carr of the Cleveland Cavaliers—were also part of the presentation. Each student was given a bone-shaped pen and a magnet emphasizing the key points.

The pre- and post-lecture quizzes showed how well the teens understood the concepts being presented. For example, when asked about the leading cause of death among people in the 5-24 year-old age group, only 29 percent of students answered correctly at the start of the lecture. At the end of the program, nearly 80 percent identified trauma as the correct answer.

“By the end of the course, 82 percent of students were able to define arthritis, and 86.5 percent could define osteoporosis. Nearly nine out of 10 students strongly agreed the program should be given to future students, and more than eight out of 10 students thought the lecture information should be shared with their families,” reported David Joyce, MD, who led the volunteer team.

Expanding the program

Beginning next year, the program will be offered across the country where other hospitals and organizations will have to become the local champions. A “how-to” manual is currently being developed. Ultimately developers hope to implement the program in other developed and developing countries.

The program generated industry support with financial and in-kind contributions from Stryker and Pfizer, as well as considerable community support including official governmental proclamations and local television and newspaper coverage.

Health Space, the Cleveland Museum of Health, is considering making the “Protect Your Bones” education program an official course in their curriculum offered to the public. The Schools of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University and The Cleveland Clinic are considering making participation in “Protect Your Bones” a permanent elective opportunity in their curriculum.

For more information, e-mail usbjd@usbjd.org or call 847-384-4010.

Toby King is executive director of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade. He can be reached at tobyking@usbjd.org

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