Remote programming brings College of Health Solutions’ summer of health to more K–12 students, families

September 2, 2020

What do yoga, grilled cheese, lumbar punctures, lettuce seeds and infectious diseases have in common? Nothing, unless you were one of the 450 K–12 students who participated in Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions’ first-ever virtual summer programs initiative.

Delivering fun and educational health content online proved to be a huge success this past summer, reaching more students from a wider variety of backgrounds and locations than ever before. Kent Moody demonstrates a recipe Chef Kent Moody demonstrates a healthy chickpea snack recipe during a Health Adventure Quest lesson. Download Full Image

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, canceled concerts and emptied public places, the College of Health Solutions moved two summer programs online to provide opportunities for students and families to continue learning during physical distancing: Health Adventure Quest, a two-week session for K–8 students to improve their health through cooking, gardening and exercising with Health Solutions chefs, dietitians, master gardeners and ASU students; and Summer Health Institute, offered for the past six years as an on-campus experience for high-achieving high school seniors interested in professional health careers.

‘Did you know honey never goes bad?’

Pulling off a monumental, logistical feat like Health Adventure Quest, or HAQ as participants called it, with its live, all-online format took a village of program experts, event planners, course designers and volunteers. HAQ adapted some of the activities from the college’s Camp CRAVE, its healthy lifestyles and cooking summer program, added exercise and gardening classes to the mix, made it all free of charge, and promoted it Arizonawide and beyond to K–8 students and their families. More than 400 students from 12 different states signed up, with daily attendance ranging from 60 to 164 for hourlong sessions held in July.

Participants were given a resource list in advance so they could gather supplies and ingredients for each activity before joining the day’s live Zoom session. One day they would be in their kitchens cooking grilled cheese sandwiches along with instructional retail kitchen coordinator and chef Kent Moody, another day in their living rooms practicing yoga and exercise with ASU students, and yet another day gardening with faculty members Kathy Dixon and Tina Shepard. Participants could join any activity at no cost, and the college provided a specially designed, printable HAQ map for students to track the sessions they attended to earn a certificate. 

While the task of converting a hands-on, in-person camp to an all-virtual experience was a challenge, the resulting success made it well worth the effort.

“It was great to be able to reach hundreds of students rather than the few dozen who are normally able to come to in-person camps, and it was important to us to provide a free, educational and flexible health resource to parents and kids stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Zach Stover, College of Health Solutions’ coordinator of summer programs and K–12 outreach. “I have taught in the rural parts of Arizona where students do not have access to the resources and tools they need to address their own health and wellness, so to be able to share ASU’s wealth of educational resources, tools and knowledge was phenomenal.” 

Almost all the participants were located in Arizona, and, while more than 400 kids were registered, Stover, who monitored each Zoom session, often counted many more than one student and adult gathered around each computer screen.

Both students and parents were enthusiastic about the program which came through in their comments submitted on a postprogram survey. “Did you know honey NEVER GOES BAD????” wrote a student, displaying some of the knowledge he picked up from one of the lessons. 

“This was one thing my kiddos looked forward to this summer,” said Chasity Byrd, whose two children, ages 10 and 13, both participated. “They are still growing their gardens!”  

Five year old Henry cooking

After cooking along with Chef Kent for two weeks, this 5-year-old participant told his mom, “I want to cook forever!" Photo courtesy Nicole Houk

Cooking sessions were a favorite. “My kids loved Chef Kent. He got them interested in healthy cooking,” said one parent from New Mexico.

“I was very impressed with the level of recipes. It wasn’t just a simple snack — the kids made meals to share. I also loved that it included learning about keeping our bodies active,” said one Arizona mom. 

Other parents appreciated some of the more practical aspects of the program. “It was great that we could use what we made for lunch or dinner that day. A win-win!” said a parent from Pennsylvania.

“It was such a blessing during this COVID time to have something we could do together, or even by my kids on their own if I had a work conflict,” wrote another parent. "My kids are already asking when we can do it again."

‘Encouraged and excited to reach my goal of becoming a physician’

While Health Adventure Quest was a new initiative, Summer Health Institute has been offered by the College of Health Solutions for the past six years as an in-person summer program for future health and medical professionals. High-achieving high school students entering their senior year apply for the opportunity to come to ASU for one week to live in residence halls and attend hands-on classes led by physicians, medical students and health professionals from the Phoenix metro area.

Providing an intense immersive program is expensive, but generous donor support through the years has allowed the college to offer it free for all students, which has attracted high-quality students from underserved backgrounds but has also limited the number of participants to 24 per camp. Being able to offer the Summer Health Institute in a remote format meant an opportunity to open it up to many more students, but planning an effective and engaging online program, hands-on by nature, was a big challenge. 

“The camp was nearly canceled this summer because of the difficulty in pivoting to a 100% virtual format while retaining the high quality of this program,” said Nate Wade, senior director of strategic initiatives for the college.

However, a collaborative team of College of Health Solutions staff and community partners from Creighton University School of Medicine in Phoenix worked tirelessly to successfully redevelop all content as virtual interactive modules and simulations.

“As faculty and leaders in health care education, we felt that educating students and the community was a priority even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Randy Richardson, a physician and regional dean for Creighton’s School of Medicine at the Phoenix campus. “We used what we learned from educating our own students in an online environment during COVID-19 to be able to continue the Summer Health Institute, even during these unprecedented times, to give high school students in our community the opportunities that Creighton University provides in health care professions.” 

Forty-two students from 12 U.S. states and four students from Egypt joined live Zoom sessions to see and ask questions of physicians and third-year medical students from Creighton and Dignity Health as they performed medical procedure simulations such as lumbar punctures and knee aspirations. In addition to the medical simulations, students learned from panel discussions with current medical students and virtual job shadowing along with online course content on infectious diseases and health technology, earning badges upon completion. 

“Although we participated virtually, we all still got to learn so much in the brief time we had,” said Namita Shah, a high school senior from Arizona. 

Several students said they felt more sure of their career decisions after participating in the institute. “I’m even more encouraged and excited to reach my goal of becoming a physician,” said Hannah Thomas, a student from Ohio.

“Being able to ask questions, gain new knowledge and participate in a variety of simulations over Zoom has made me excited for the future and more sure that I want to pursue a career in the medical field,” said Lexi Centeno, from Illinois. 

Funding and the future

While Health Adventure Quest and Summer Health Institute were free to participants, the College of Health Solutions committed significant faculty and staff time as well as out-of-pocket funds to deliver these programs. A generous donation from the Central Arizona Area Health Education Center, one of the five regional programs under the Arizona Area Health Education Centers’ umbrella, covered other expenses and established a new relationship with the college for future K–12 collaboration.  

In addition to new connections with regional health partners, the success of the virtual summer programs has organizers thinking of new ways to reach an even wider K–12 audience with quality health education year round. For example, the Summer Health Institute course modules will be made available to high school seniors this fall, and the Health Adventure Quest recorded sessions are being offered as free resources for K–8 students in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix, Valley of the Sun YMCA and Mountain Park Health Center, who expressed interest in using the health content to expand their existing curricula.

Kelly Krause

Media and communications manager, College of Health Solutions

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ASU, Mayo Clinic and Maricopa County Department of Public Health collaborate on antibody survey

September 2, 2020

The Serosurvey Project will create a more complete picture of COVID-19 infections in Maricopa County

Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University are embarking on an ambitious project to better understand the prevalence and spread of COVID-19 cases in the county — and they need the public’s help to do it.

Their Serosurvey Project will send teams across the Valley of the Sun to selected neighborhoods and request blood samples from residents for antibody tests to determine if households had any prior exposure to COVID-19. In the absence of the ability to currently test everyone, such a survey will provide critical insights for the county health department (MCDPH) to better understand and project how many Maricopa County residents may have already been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“It will be really eye-opening to get an idea of how much spread we actually have had in Maricopa County,” said Marcy Flanagan, executive director at MCDPH. “Our residents have been great at stepping up to help reduce spread and protect our families, friends, and neighbors, and participating in this serosurvey is a way to contribute to knowledge specific to our community.”

The sample collection and survey of Maricopa County residents will run from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20.

Why Maricopa County health needs your help

The project aims to collect 500 samples from 210 households in selected clusters throughout Maricopa County. The clusters were chosen using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention technique called Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER). CASPER is designed to give public health officials a snapshot of a community based on a carefully selected sample representative of the larger population. This can better inform public health strategies, identify information gaps, aid response and recovery, allocate resources and assess new or changing needs in communities. 

The teams will go to people’s homes instead of relying on patients coming to a clinic for testing, because this method ensures a more accurate representation of the community, said Megan Jehn, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Jehn is an infectious disease epidemiologist who leads a student outbreak response team working with MCDPH to support the public health response to COVID-19. 

“We're trying to come out on different days of the week, at different times of the day and to different neighborhoods, because we want everyone to be represented,” Jehn said. “We want to know the true impact of COVID-19 in the community with a sample to reflect our community’s socioeconomic, geographic, age and ethnic diversity.”

What antibodies tell us

Once collected, Mayo Clinic will test the blood samples for antibodies, which are proteins that our bodies produce in a unique response to a particular germ.

“The process of making antibodies starts with exposure to a virus — your body sees that virus, recognizes it as foreign and will generate antibodies against it,” said Erin Kaleta, director of Infectious Disease Serology and co-director of Clinical Chemistry at Mayo Clinic. Kaleta will be leading the sample testing.

A negative test result means that an individual has probably not had the virus, while a positive result means someone was probably infected with COVID-19 at some point in the past. And studies have shown that even people who may be asymptomatic for COVID-19 can produce antibodies to the virus.

Since this antibody data shows who has and hasn’t been infected, it gives public health officials a more accurate idea of the actual number of cases in the county. The serosurvey will allow MCDPH to calculate an estimated total number of undiagnosed cases for Maricopa County. Similar projects in the U.S. found that for every diagnosed case of COVID-19, as many as eight to 10 people had antibodies. This suggests the virus is far more prevalent than diagnostic testing reveals.

“The benefit of this is that we can get a better idea of who's been infected overall, which is a better indicator than using diagnostic testing, as those only see a moment in time,” Kaleta said.

In addition to aiding the county’s public health work, the antibody data could provide useful information to participants volunteering blood samples. 

“You might learn something about how your behavior is associated with your likelihood of contracting COVID-19,” Jehn said. “You may learn something about those risk factors that you have in your life.”

First county household demographic data

Along with blood samples, teams will be conducting a survey with residents to gain a more complete picture of each household’s experience with COVID-19.

The survey questionnaire will provide data on a household’s experience with COVID-19 testing and quarantine, chronic illnesses, employment and access to health care, and finally knowledge, attitudes and household practices related to COVID-19.

Survey questions will be asked at the same time as the blood draw, which will be collected by nursing students from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said Heather Ross, an assistant professor in the Edson College, who aided the survey development.

Ross is also working to staff the serosurvey field teams with ASU students in global health and anthropology programs. In addition, volunteers who support Maricopa County Department of Public Health’s efforts will serve in a variety of roles, both in the field teams and behind-the-scenes.

“The most critical component of this project is field teams asking residents for blood samples,” said Michael Shafer, a professor in the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “That’s a pretty big lift.”

To ease the load, field teams will be partially staffed with students in social work programs, who bring a useful skill set to the Serosurvey Project. 

“Social work students can empathize, build rapport with residents, respond to fluid situations, and will be able to address people’s concerns in a constructive way,” Shafer said. “This is the kind of project that really galvanized me as a young man and taught me about what was important to me.”

Field teams will ask survey questions and collect blood samples in portable tents set up outside with the permission of participating residents, and a mobile clinic will be on hand for support. Team members will wear CDC-recommended personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and booties when conducting the surveys and drawing blood.

“This is to protect our field teams, but also to provide assurance of protection to a family who is inviting a stranger into their community in the name of public health,” Ross said.

Illustration by Ashley Quay.

Privacy is a priority

Privacy is just as important to the serosurvey team as accuracy. No personal identifying information will be attached to blood samples for testing. Instead, samples will be assigned codes when they are sent to Mayo Clinic. After testing, Mayo Clinic will return the results to MCDPH, who will match the codes with the participants before contacting the participants by phone. Participants can also request a mailed copy of their antibody test results. 

“The thing that's really, really important to know about this is that all of the survey results and all of the blood test results will remain confidential,” Ross said. “They'll be shared with the county public health department. And that's it.”

Armed with that data, MCDPH can more effectively chart a course forward for Maricopa County. This is even more important as schools, businesses, places of worship and other community entities seek guidance on reopening safely.

Top photo: The blood draw will be collected by nursing students from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. Photo by Andy DeLisle

Pete Zrioka

Assistant director of content strategy , Knowledge Enterprise