A healthy headstart



Preschoolers across Nunavut line up to be measured, poked and examined

Billy Angnetsiak’s wide eyes fill with tears as nurse Di Schulze pokes his tiny arm with a needle.

The subsequent howls fill the health centre examining room. In an effort to console the child, a smiling Schulze offers the boy an orange. The fresh fruit soothes Angnetsiak, who starts kindergarten in August.

Angnetsiak was one of 32 Pond Inlet children between the ages of four and five who visited the health centre for preschool screening April 18 to 19.

The annual clinics run by the government of Nunavut’s health department are underway throughout the territory. The screening, which tests eyesight, hearing, weight, height, blood sugar levels and cognitive development, identifies any special needs a child may have.

Schulze, who has lived and worked in Pond Inlet since 1999, is a steadfast supporter of the program.

“The screening is to make sure the kids are healthy and developmentally ready for school,” she says. “If we identify anyone who is not developmentally ready, we can let the school know and the student can get the appropriate support.”

If, for example, a student’s hearing is damaged — as is common with children in the North who experience chronic ear infections, Schulze says, a note goes onto a student’s file. In more critical situations, where a disease or syndrome is suspected, follow-up testing in the form a trip South is ordered.

“The screening makes sure kids are not falling through the cracks,” Schulze says.

The booster shot — which protects a child from diphtheria, whopping cough, polio and tetanus — is clearly the least popular stop during the testing.

Reactions to the needle-prick, though, were mixed. One boy didn’t blink, nor would he pick up a pen when asked to draw a series of circles and squares. The drawing exercise, in part, tests a child’s cognitive development.

The young boy, who had had a sleepless night due to family troubles, would not be penalized or labeled developmentally delayed. He’ll simply be re-tested at a later date.

Martin Katsak was prepped about his shot in advance. He plopped himself on a chair, rolled up his sleeve and waited for Schulze to leave her mark.

The prick made his bottom lip quiver: not because of the pain, but because the flashy Band Aid he expected was not forthcoming. When the thin adhesive strip was peeled and placed on Katsak’s upper arm, a smile spread across his face, marking the end of his visit.

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