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Healthcare innovation idea behind new Grand Falls-Windsor student initiative

·3 min read

A new initiative in Grand Falls-Windsor wants to get students thinking about healthcare.

Early last week, the town, along with the Grand Falls-Windsor-based EXCITE Corporation, the Bounce Health Initiative and all of the town’s schools would begin a pilot partnership that would look to give students a better understanding of healthcare in their community

This understanding would come from the use of technology and work with the students to foster innovative ideas when it comes to health.

The program will be done in quarters as students from each grade will be allowed to learn and think about their community in a way they might not be used to.

“This would engage our young students in health and technology and try to give them an opportunity to be exposed to that at a young age, so that their thinking is already around technology as it relates to health,” said Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel. “As they get older and go through their schooling, we hope it would have impact on the way they think and, certainly, the possibility of them forming career paths with regards to technology and health.”

While the new project won’t take hold until 2021, the town recently ran its third annual High School Hack 3.0 as an introduction to what students can expect

With that in mind, the Bounce Health Initiative’s Dr. Chandra Kavanagh presented the dozen or so students from Exploits Valley High was a medical problem with the aim being to present new ideas to solve it.

They were asked to examine the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on medical services in the province. In particular, the students worked on humanizing healthcare during the pandemic.

From there, the students would brainstorm ideas and present their solutions.

“Our kids were engaged and coming up with ideas,” said Exploits Valley High principal Paul Lewis.

Originally, the idea was to run the program for students in grades from elementary to high school. However, after some discussion with teachers in primary grades, the decision was made to include every grade.

That means every four months, the Bounce Health Initiative would come to Grand Falls-Windsor and work with a group of students from each grade. The focus would be on health care, on innovation and on technology.

“Let me tell you, all of these administrators were inspired, all of these principals showed so much forward-thinking, so much inspiration that it was beautiful to see,” said Kavanagh.

In addition to opening the eyes of students when it comes to innovation and technology and how that can be applied, Kavanagh plans on taking the new ideas generated from the sessions and presenting them to provincial health officials.

“We get access to brilliant young minds,” she said. “One of the things we’ve noticed, especially because of COVID-19, is that our healthcare system is not functioning. There are all of these ways where a small amount or even a large amount of pressure can paralyze that system.

“That means we need to do things in a fundamentally different way and if you keep going to the same sources, you’re going to get the same ideas.”

As an educator, Lewis sees the benefits of this sort of deep learning and the effects it has on students as they progress through school.

He sees the program as a great opportunity, especially at the lower grades.

“If you can get a sense of engagement at that level and if you can hit off on some of the deep learning at that level, boy, I’d be interested in seeing what that's going to look like when they come through a system that's been exposed to real-world problems, solutions, innovations and taking a different approach,” said Lewis.

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice