Experts Recommend Flu Vaccination As Rates Remain Low

The ABC News (9/27, Larotonda) “Medical Unit” blog reports that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “more children than ever have been vaccinated against influenza,” health experts say the number is still too low as the flu season starts. At a CDC press conference held by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases on Thursday, “officials praised the upward movement…but cautioned it could still cause problems.” According to CDC assistant surgeon general, Dr. Anne Schuchat, “Last year it came early and it came hard and we’d like to get as many people vaccinated as possible before that.”

        At the press conference, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Howard Koh said, “Everyone 6 months of age and older should receive a flu vaccine,” CBS News (9/27, Jaslow) website reports. Koh added, “Despite substantial progress, we can do even more to make our country healthier through prevention.” A report card comparing the vaccination rates of previous years with last year’s was revealed during the press conference, showing “coverage rose 5 percent year over year for children aged 6 months through 17 years old, with about 57 percent” receiving vaccinations. In adults 18 and older, 41.5 percent were vaccinated, an increase of around 3 percent.

        On its website, NBC News (9/27, Fox) reports that “72 percent of health care staff got the vaccine,” but “only 59 percent of people working on long-term care facilities were vaccinated against flu last year.” Among pregnant women only 51 percent were vaccinated, and with pregnant women being more susceptible to the flu, “more work is needed” in getting them vaccinated. The report found that when offered a flu shot on the spot by their doctor, 70 percent of pregnant women received one, compared to 46 percent that “were vaccinated if their doctors recommended it but didn’t offer it then and there.”

        Also reporting on the story are the AP (9/27, Neergaard), Time (9/26, Sifferlin), the Washington Times (9/27, Somers), the Orlando (FL) Sentinel (9/26, Jameson), the Hartford (CT) Courant (9/26, Weir), MedPage Today (9/27, Smith), Medscape (9/27, Tucker), HealthDay (9/27, Reinberg), and Modern Healthcare (9/26, Subscription Publication).

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[NATIONAL NURSE] Government Has Role to Play In Prevention

ImageThe LA Times (March 4, 2013) reported on an interesting recent survey conducted by health policy experts at Harvard. The findings overwhelmingly public support for the “new frontier” prevention initiatives of the CDC’s public health agenda, for example, those that focus on changing the health behaviors responsible for the three leading causes of death (tobacco 18.1%, inactivity/poor nutrition 16.6%, and alcohol use 3.5%).

Seventy percent or more of the 1800 respondents supported efforts to change behaviors to reduce cancer, heart disease, childhood obesity, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. More than 80% were positive about legislation to require calorie counts of items on menus and restrict sales of super-size sodas, making fruits and vegetables more affordable, teaching children about health risks of obesity, and requiring 45 minutes of physical education daily. Seventy-three percent also said the government should make nicotine patches available at no cost. Respondents were less supportive of measures seen as coercive or punitive such as charging a $50 insurance penalty for obese persons and/or measuring body mass index of school students.

These findings indicate a high potential for acceptance of more community education and behavioral change interventions focused to improve health outcomes. This data would support increased use of health messengers in all communities such as would be implemented by volunteer health professionals guided by a National Nurse for Public Health.