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September 8, 2017
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JP O'Hare

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First-In-The Nation Sepsis Prevention Curriculum Materials Now Available To Teachers

Chancellor Rosa, Commissioner Elia, Regent Chin, Assemblywoman Nolan Joined by Staunton Family Foundation to Announce

Potentially Life-Saving Resources

September is Sepsis Awareness Month


In collaboration with the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, the State Education Department today announced sample K-12 grade curriculum on sepsis prevention is available for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers. In recognition of Sepsis Awareness Month, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Regent Judith Chin and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan were joined by Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, founders of the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention, to announce the availability of the sepsis-prevention resources for educators.  

“With Assemblywoman Nolan and the Staunton family, we are providing schools with tools teach our children about the dangers of sepsis and how they can prevent it,” Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said. “This curriculum provides guidance for health teachers to engage students on this important topic. Sepsis preventions education can truly save lives.”

“Sepsis is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year and many people have no idea what the infection is and how it can be so easily prevented,” Commissioner Elia said. “I would like to thank the Staunton Family and Assemblywoman Nolan for championing this issue. It is so important that our young people learn at an early age how to protect themselves from this often-deadly disease. I urge educators across the state to use this Sepsis prevention curriculum as a guide to talk to children about the dangers of Sepsis and what they can do to stay healthy.”

Sepsis, an extreme response to infection, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming more American lives than AIDS, breast and prostate cancers, and stroke combined: between 250,000 and 500,000 annually.

Earlier this year, both the State Assembly and Senate passed a bill (A.6053-A Nolan/S.4971-A Marcellino) that would direct the commissioner of education to establish a sepsis awareness and prevention program for school districts, boards of cooperative educational services and nonpublic schools, and require the detection of the signs and symptoms of sepsis as part of course work or training in infection control practices for licensed professionals.

While the bill has not yet been delivered to the Governor for action, NYSED started this important work by partnering with the Staunton Family to create resources for schools to teach children about the deadly disease. NYSED also worked closely on the legislation with Assembly Education Chair Nolan, who has made Sepsis awareness a priority and has been an advocate for the Staunton family’s cause for years.

Catherine Nolan, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said, “Rory Staunton was a wonderful young man who loved robotics, politics, having fun and being a great son and brother. He was taken from us by a deadly infection. His parents have bravely dedicated themselves to making changes and educating others to save lives. It has been an honor to work with the Staunton family on developing this legislation and effort by the State Education Department. I want to thank Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, Speaker Carl Heastie and the staff of the education committee, Senators John Flanagan and Carl Marcellino and of course Chancellor Betty Rosa, Regent Judith Chin and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and the staff of the State Education Department for developing this program. I also want to acknowledge the work of Governor Cuomo and his Health Department for developing health initiatives on this issue. The work of the Staunton family will save lives and ensure that Rory Staunton will always be remembered.”

The curriculum addresses the topic at a developmentally appropriate level for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, emphasizing education on what sepsis is, how students can prevent sepsis, and when to seek help from a trusted adult. In the older grade levels, self-advocacy and health literacy is also emphasized to assist students in communicating with others on health needs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sepsis is life-threatening, and without the right treatment, can cause tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Any kind of infection–in your skin, lungs, urinary tract or other place–can lead to sepsis. Common symptoms of sepsis are fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate, rash, confusion and disorientation. Many of these symptoms, such as fever and difficulty breathing, mimic other conditions, making sepsis hard to diagnose in its early stages. Although Sepsis is preventable and treatable, it is vital that it is recognized and treated as early as possible. 

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton founded the Rory Staunton Foundation for Sepsis Prevention after their son Rory died from sepsis on April 1, 2012. When Rory received a cut from a fall in the gym at his school, a deadly toxin entered his body and Rory developed sepsis as a result. ​The Foundation is dedicated to reducing the number of sepsis-caused deaths, through a variety of efforts including but not limited to, raising public awareness of sepsis through education to ensure all students, teachers and parents are aware of the importance of infection prevention and treatment and the dangers and signs of sepsis.

Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton said, “Rory lives in our hearts every day and we are very proud of the many lives that have been saved in his name. We thank Chancellor Rosa, Commissioner Elia, Regent Chin and Assemblywoman Nolan for their leadership in introducing these life-saving resources into New York State's schools. Knowledge is power and the information contained in these lessons will ultimately prevent thousands of needless deaths from sepsis. By including this curricula in schools, New York is once again leading the nation in the fight against sepsis.”

The Department's technical assistance center, the NYS Center for School Health, has a wealth of resources on its webpage to assist both Health Educators, and School Health Professionals obtain reliable information on sepsis and other health topics. In addition to Sepsis prevention curriculum for K-12, NYSED’s website provides links to additional resources about sepsis from:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Sepsis
National Institutes of Health- Sepsis  
New York State Center for School Health  
New York State Center for School Health - Sepsis