Health Departments Creatively Promoting Flu Shots

An item in Governing magazine speaks to the national strategies being used by local health departments to promote broader vaccination for flu season, especially in light of a particularly difficult strain in the 2012-13 season. From the article:

“The idea that this is something we have to respect and something we have to consider a danger to people’s health, that’s a difficult message,” says Paul Etkind, senior director of infectious diseases at the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO). “People tend to forget or discount that this is something that needs to be taken seriously.”

And then thousands of those people who ignore the warnings get sick. So local officials are trying to think outside the box when they deliver their message.

Sometimes, it means doing something as drastic as declaring a public health emergency to make an impression. That’s what Boston Mayor Tom Menino did this month after his staff realized that the city had seen 700 confirmed flu cases so far this season—10 times the number they saw last year. (Etkind notes that confirmed cases are “just the tip of the iceberg” because many, even most, people stay home and treat themselves or doctors don’t bother or need to confirm a diagnosis through a lab test).

And, one gratuitous local reference, amidst the obligatory Superbowl mania sweeping our fair state:

This year, the CDC got Matt Birk, center for the Baltimore Ravens who will be playing for a Super Bowl ring next week, to become an unofficial spokesperson for flu vaccination.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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