NFID Efforts To Reach Racial, Ethnic Families About Dangers Of Meningitis

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The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' (NFID) S.T.O.P. (Share. Teach. Outreach. Protect.) Meningitis! coalition, composed of many of the nation's leading medical and advocacy organizations, recently issued a Call to Action to improve adolescent meningococcal vaccination rates and to reduce immunization disparities among racial and ethnic groups and other underserved populations.

"Meningococcal disease is a serious bacterial infection that progresses rapidly and often leads to death or long-term health consequences," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID Medical Director and Vice Chair, Department of Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic. "To ensure adolescents across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups are protected from this devastating disease, increased efforts are needed to reduce disparities and educate families about the benefits of meningococcal vaccination."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends meningococcal vaccination for all adolescents 11-18 years of age and college freshmen living in dormitories (only one vaccination is needed). While recent CDC data shows an increase in the number of teens receiving meningococcal vaccination (up from 11.7% in 2006 to 32.4% in 2007), immunization rates still remain low with only a third of pre-teens and teens having been vaccinated. These data show there is a considerable amount of work to do in helping teens and their parents understand the dangers of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination.

A recent survey conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of NFID to assess meningococcal disease awareness among African American, Hispanic and Caucasian parents of children ages 11 to 21 showed only 27 percent of Hispanic parents, 31 percent of African American parents and 41 percent of Caucasian parents believe their children are at risk for meningococcal disease, or meningitis. In addition, 58 percent of African American parents, 49 percent of Hispanic parents, and 49 percent of Caucasian parentsdid not know there is a vaccine available to help prevent the disease. However, once made aware of the availability of the vaccine, the majority indicated they would have their adolescent immunized.

The Call to Action, entitled "Improving Meningococcal Vaccination Rates in Adolescents and Reducing Racial, Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities," discusses disparities in meningococcal disease awareness among certain racial and ethnic groups. The piece also identifies barriers to immunization and outlines strategies to increase meningococcal vaccination rates among all adolescents.

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To assist health care providers in reaching underserved, at-risk populations,the Call to Action outlines strategies for addressing the needs of diverse groups and increasing immunization rates. These strategies include:

* Implementation of educational programs concerning meningococcal disease, including offering materials and services for non-English speaking parents and patients

* Ensuring equal access to vaccines for all adolescents by utilizing all medical visits and alternative sites (schools, pharmacies) as opportunities for vaccination as well as implementing in-practice standing orders

* Removing financial barriers to immunization by informing parents of children eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program about the availability of free vaccine to protect their child from meningococcal disease

The Call to Action was developed following a meeting of NFID's S.T.O.P. Meningitis! coalition, which includes the following medical and advocacy organizations: the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College Health Association, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, National Asian Women's Health Organization, National Association of County & City Health Officials, National Association of School Nurses, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Meningitis Association, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine. The goals of S.T.O.P. Meningitis! are supported by the CDC.

The Call to Action can be accessed on the NFID Web site at www.nfid.org. Also available on the Web site are downloadable resource materials to support implementation of in-practice meningococcal immunization programs. These materials are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Cambodian, Loatian, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean and Vietnamese.

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