Rising levels of obesity across the United States are a cause of concern for health officials, especially since it is affecting people at younger and younger ages. “We see it in the schools as well, and we want to address it,” said Jan Classen, school nurse coordinator for USD 373. “... I have kids with high blood pressure, I have kids with diabetes. I’ve seen it increase over the years.” In order to help Newton schools encourage healthy living for students, Newton Medical Center has purchased seven digital scales for USD 373, enough to place a scale in all the elementary schools, as well as the middle and high schools. The scales will enable school nurses to gather height, weight and body mass index (BMI) more quickly than if a traditional scale were to be used, Classen said. “To have a digital scale will really help in that process,” she said. School nurses also conduct vision, hearing and dental screenings, in addition to measuring height, weight and BMI. Nurses turn in data they’ve collected to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment at the end of the year, and later they receive back a report of data compiled from across the state. While Classen said school nurses aren’t there to diagnose the students, they can help them to identity possible health concerns, such as weight and BMI. They also share tips with parents about how to encourage children to have a healthy lifestyle, such as drinking more water and eating healthier snacks. “We work really hard to promote health and wellness,” she said. “... Education is a big factor.” She said it is important to encourage wellness while students are young, and a healthier lifestyle will improve their performance in school. “A healthy kid is going to learn better,” she said. She thanks Newton Medical Center for their donation, and for partnering with the schools to promote health and wellness. “It has meant so much, they’re just very supportive,” she said. “Any help we get from other agencies, like Newton Medical Center, we just appreciate.”