Tips for National Immunization Awareness Month

8467521281_45a915e77b_zCan you believe it’s August already? As I get older, the summer seems to fly by quicker and quicker. It feels like only yesterday, we were celebrating the coming of summer and with a blink of an eye it is over. What I also realized is that it seems the older I get, the more health conscious I become. I now find myself exercising more often, eating healthier, and being generally more in tune with my overall health.

 I recently visited my doctor’s office and while sitting in the waiting room, I noticed several posters on the walls that highlighted the importance of a number of health related topics.  The most common poster that stood out to me was the one that informed patients to stay up to date on their immunizations.  As a 30-something adult who doesn’t visit the doctor’s office that often and who recently became more health conscious; I really had no idea when my last immunization was and which immunizations I was due for.   This got me thinking: what communication and education tools are health providers utilizing to inform patients of all ages about immunizations?

 This brings me to our highlighted Healthcare Day Reminder for August. This month, we are recognizing National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM).  NIAM takes place each August and highlights the value of immunizations and vaccines across people’s lifespans.   I wanted to feature it this month as it aims to highlight activities that can be done to help educate the population on the value of being vaccinated against infectious diseases and how regular immunizations can increase individual and community health.*

Research shows that communication is the first step in ensuring patients, parents, young adults and healthcare workers understand why staying up to date on their immunization records is essential to their health longevity.

As healthcare providers, you and your staff work each day to keep your patients healthy.  You help to answer their questions, remind them of their visits and answer their health questions.  One conversation that you most likely have with parents is about protecting their children from preventable diseases by getting immunizations.  Research shows that parents’ most trusted source of immunization information is their child’s doctor or nurse and that they want to get consistent information from these credible sources.* That is great news.  But what about the rest of your patient population? The parents themselves, the young adults, the 30-somethings or the elderly? Studies show that although adult immunization coverage is low, most adult patients believe immunizations are important and if they received a recommendation from their healthcare provider, they are more likely to get immunized.*

 As I proceeded to ask my doctor about my immunization history, I came to understand that I was in fact due for several immunizations.  I thought to myself, what if I had not been inspired by that poster? What if I did not ask for my history? Would my doctor have communicated to me my required immunizations?

 To help celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month, here are some tips on how healthcare organizations can communicate the importance of immunizations to patients of all ages:

– Communicate to your patients that immunizations aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can receive immunizations to help them stay healthy and protect them from serious diseases.

– Make it easy for your patients to stay healthy all year round.  Send reminders to let them know that they are due for their immunizations.

– Ask your patients if they are up to date on immunizations.  Help them understand that if they cannot remember and do not have their immunization record, they may be due.

– Help parents make sure older children, preteens, and teens have received all recommended vaccines by the time they go back to school.*

– Encourage parents with young children to get recommended immunizations by age two.

– Remind college students to get immunizations before they move into dormitories.

– Put up posters in the waiting room or hand out flyers to your patients as they come in for their appointment to remind them about getting their immunizations.

– Educate adults, healthcare workers, and pregnant women about vaccines and boosters they may need.*

– Don’t forget to remind patients that the next flu season is only a few months away.

Remember immunizations help prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases for people of all ages including 30-somethings.  National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to remind your patients, family, friends, and coworkers to all stay up to date on their immunizations.