The maker of Lysol, Reckitt, and a public health company, Kinsa, launched the city’s first effective early warning system for preventable illness.
The plan for New York City FLUency™ school health program was announced on Sept. 22. The program is helping public elementary schools across the five boroughs stay safe, healthy and slow the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses this school year. 110 of the eligible 700 schools have already signed up, with more expected to join as flu season sets in, said Nita Nehru from Kinsa Health.
“I think we as a country have all seen the importance of having an early warning system for illness,” Nehru said. “We have early warning systems for hurricanes and tornadoes, and we know when those are coming. They’re still devastating, but warning systems at least give people a chance to prepare. That’s what we need for illness, so by signing up for this program whether you’re a school, or you’re a parent whose child is in a school, by participating in this program you’re helping New York City be on the front lines of building this early warning system.”
More than 80,000 families and teachers at participating public elementary schools received free Kinsa smart thermometers along with more than 100,000 canisters of Lysol ® Disinfecting Wipes, through Reckitt funding, according to a press release from Lysol.
“The more thermometers in use across the city, the less likely it is that something like COVID will catch us off guard again,” Nehru said.
The Kinsa smart thermometers are used with a companion mobile application not only to guide users to appropriate care and treatment but also to aggregate anonymous indicators of spreading illness, Nehru said.
“It’s an initiative to curb the spread of illness in classrooms by helping parents and school nurses and school leaders know more about symptoms and illnesses going around,” Nehru said. Adding, “Because fever is an early sign of a lot of contagious illnesses, knowing where those are popping up early gives us the opportunity to investigate.”
The thermometers are one more tool to help provide peace of mind to families, school staff and the entire community.
Using Kinsa thermometers, “doctors and city public health officials in New York City will be able to monitor school illness trends through a private dashboard. Schools can then use this data on where symptoms are starting and spreading to inform health and safety policies like social distancing, increased disinfection or remote learning and can encourage preventative behaviors to reduce community transmission,” the release said.
“It’s much more than a thermometer, it’s really an illness support system,” Nehru said. “It’s like a nurse in your pocket.”
Reckitt also provides Lysol Welcome Back Packs to all participating schools. The packs include materials for teachers and families to educate students on healthy habits and supplies for teachers to use around the school and in the classroom.
“After the tragedy and devastation that COVID-19 brought to our city in the last two years, it’s more clear than ever that New York City needs early warning systems to predict and detect the spread of illnesses,” said Corey Johnson, Speaker of the New York City Council in the release. “I’m excited to see this partnership between Kinsa and Lysol that will help protect our children and all New Yorkers.”
FLUency is part of Lysol’s larger HERE for Healthy Schools initiative, which was launched to help curb the spread of preventable illnesses in schools through education, research funding and strategic partnerships. The initiative helps support Reckitt’s Fight for Access efforts to improve access to health, hygiene and nutrition for all.
“In 2020, Lysol announced plans to invest more than $20 million over three years to expand HERE for Healthy Schools into every Title I school in the U.S., reaching 15 million children by 2022,” the release said.
The FLUency program was created out of a public private partnership between the New York City Department of Health and Mayor’s Office, Lysol, and Kinsa.