Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CDC—When a Behemoth Needs Help #NIIW

To obtain a master’s degree in public relations, one of my course requirements was to analyze the public relations perspectives of any topical issue. It coincided with the peak period of the Ebola crisis, so I quickly picked on the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), because the Center was in the middle of it all.

Predictably, the summation of my presentation was that the CDC underperformed in managing the crisis, as it was always putting the wrong foot forward at almost all instances. It was either the CDC reacted very late or said the wrong thing, so much so that its credibility was almost called into question. Barely one year after, another deadly disease, Zika is now on the prowl, and I visited the CDC website to see how the Center is responding this time around.

While on the site, I spent more time going through other activities of the CDC and was astounded at the volume of activities the Center deals with on daily basis.

From diseases like cancer to heart disease, sexually transmitted disease, ADHD, diabetes, flu(influenza), the Center is also highly involved in emergency preparedness, workplace safety& health, environmental health and outbreaks, to mention but a few.

I quickly came to the conclusion that the CDC is akin to a healthcare clearing house, a healthcare behemoth and I wondered if its staff strength is able to effectively coordinate these numerous activities.

I left the site with empathy, feeling strongly that the Center needs help. For a Center that works daily to protect Americans from health, safety and security threats, both from abroad and in the U.S, the body sure needs help from health workers, it needs help from health professionals and it needs help from volunteers and most especially it needs help from nonprofit organizations that are scattered all over the place.

Taking into consideration that whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, the CDC fights them and supports communities and citizens to do the same.

It is in the light of this that one commends the initiative of Nurses Who Vaccinate (NWV), a not-for-profit organization made up of nurses and other health professionals who advocate for immunizations to hold a local version of the National Infant Immunization Awareness program in Long Island, New York must be commended.

The National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), is an annual program of the Center for Disease Control to highlight the positive impact of vaccinations on the lives of infants and children. It is a national program set for April 16-23 in 2016 and is celebrated as part of the World Immunization Week, an initiative of the World Health Organization.

However, Nurses Who Vaccinate, in conjunction with other nurses on Long Island, is leveraging the CDC’s infant immunization week to reach out to the underserved population with information and education to advocate for wellness of children in its communities.

Melody Butler, a pediatric nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Long Island, founder of the organization says “their mission is to collaborate with health systems and other organizations to promote general wellness for all through immunization.”

This collaboration becomes very pertinent because as big as CDC might be, it cannot be at every nook and corner of the country and therefore needs foot soldiers to help spread its health and wellness message.

Without a doubt, not many people are aware of the infants’ immunization week, but this young and proactive nonprofit, NWV is holding the event at the Martin Luther King Health Center at Wyandanch, a small community in New York.

According to Melody Butler, the event is to compliment efforts of the CDC in advancing the cause and benefits of immunization.

“At a time, some nurses, saddled with the responsibility to vaccinate are now opposed to it, it becomes incumbent on us, the pro-vaccination nurses to raise the bar by joining hands to promote vaccination,” Butler pointed out.

NWV she indicated, has put in place all that is needed at the community level to bring together parents and guardians and educate them on the virtue of vaccinations.

At the national level, the CDC is using the infants’ immunization awareness week to among others highlight the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases, especially to infants and young children, educate parents and caregivers about the importance of vaccination in protecting their children from birth against vaccine-preventable diseases and focus attention on its immunization achievements and also, celebrate the accomplishments made possible through successful collaboration.

Findings show that the CDC will also step up efforts to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases, thereby give them a healthy start in life, encourage better communication between parents and health care professionals and remind parents and caregivers they need to make and keep needed immunization appointments.

It has also created events that attract community support and media interest in order to increase national and local coverage of stories on the importance of childhood immunization, as well as create opportunities for local organizations and agencies to work together as immunization partners, for which the NWV is taking advantage of.

The Center has never pretended it can effectively do this nationwide alone, it therefore supports efforts to provide web-based resources for state and local health departments and local coalitions to develop and implement a communication strategy that will increase awareness of the importance of immunization and improve local vaccine coverage rates.

Not even a million staff members can help send CDC’s wellness message to all the communities, it therefore needs in large number, the partnership of organizations like Nurses Who Vaccinate to serve as messengers of this important lifesaving information.

Since 1994, local and state health departments, national immunization partners, healthcare professionals, community leaders from across the United States and CDC have worked together through NIIW to highlight the positive impact of vaccination on the lives of infants and children, and to call attention to immunization achievements. By so doing, several notable milestones have been accomplished in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases worldwide.

Partnership is the keyword here. Working on the communications aspect for the 2016 NIIW, with Nurses Who Vaccinate in New York, one sees first hand, how the organization takes the immunization message to the grassroots through a one on one mobilization and education of members of the community on the benefits of immunization.

The grassroots approach at community health centers, WIC offices, pediatric clinics adopted by Nurses Who Vaccinate goes a long way to allay the fears and concerns parents have against immunization and kudos must also be given to the CDC for the avalanche of materials made available in various languages for this awareness drive on infant immunization.

Like the theme of this year’s campaign says, immunization indeed has power to protect!

Williams Ekanem, is a communications specialist based in Long Island, New York can be reached @ kayceewills@yahoo.com

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