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Prioritizing Adolescent Immunizations

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Adolescent immunization rates are lagging below national goals. Unity Consortium is dedicated to educating teens about the importance of immunization and the vaccines recommended specifically for their age group.

Most teens have a lot of their plate. There’s school, homework, extra-curricular activities, sports for many, part-time jobs for some and of course, the social scene – both in person and the virtual kind. So it’s understandable that health, and in particular, immunizations are not a priority for many teens and young adults. But with adolescent immunizations rates lagging below national goals, we need to do more to educate teens about the importance of immunization and the vaccines recommended specifically for their age group.

Unity Consortium is partnering with Outcome Health to reach teens while they are visiting doctors via information that explains the critical role teen and young adult vaccination plays in disease prevention. These materials will also reach parents and healthcare providers who play a vital role in keeping teens healthy.

A recent Unity survey conducted by Harris poll sheds light on why adolescent vaccination rates remain far too low. In short, vaccination rates may be stagnant partly because of attitudes about vaccination and missed opportunities to vaccinate.

For example, the survey found that not all parents and teens realize the value of annual check-ups and vaccination. In fact, 4 in 10 parents and nearly 6 in 10 teens believe teens should only see a doctor when he/she feels sick. This belief likely reduce opportunities for physicians to discuss preventive health measures, such as vaccination, with teenagers and their parents. Similarly, the survey showed that 1 in 4 parents and teens believe that vaccines are for babies and not as important for teens and more than one-third of teens don’t know how being vaccinated helps them. By placing vaccine information in physician waiting room and exam rooms, Unity and Outcome Health hope to increase the understanding about vaccines so that these misperceptions can be addressed. The materials may also serve as a reminder to healthcare providers to check their patients’ immunization records, since less than half of the physicians surveyed reported issuing reminders to teens and their parents about needed or missed vaccinations.

The CDC recommends that adolescents receive the following vaccines to protect their health in the short and long-term.

• Meningococcal: Two distinct meningococcal disease vaccines (ACWY and B) protect against the most common types of bacterial meningitis. While most people recover from meningitis, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) and even death can result from the infection. Receiving both vaccines can help ensure protection from these potentially devastating infections.

• Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis [whooping cough]) and Td Booster (tetanus and diphtheria): Recently, there have been outbreaks of whooping cough in the United States.

• HPV (human papillomavirus): The vaccine is most effective at preventing HPV-associated cancers in both men and women when given during the preteen years.

• Flu: More serious than a cold, flu impacts an infected person for up to two weeks, but can also lead to serious and even deadly complications, such as pneumonia. A flu vaccination is needed annually as the flu strains change and, while there is still a low risk of catching the flu even with the shot, patients will often experience a milder case of the flu if vaccinated.
Annual checkups should be the norm, not the exception. Other ways to help to prioritize preventive health among adolescents include:

• Parents and teens: Learn more about the safety and the benefit of recommended vaccines.

o Unity Consortium has resources available about adolescent preventive health and vaccination.
o The CDC has available information on the vaccine schedule including recommended ages and catch-up opportunities.

• Immunizers: Make sure teens don’t skip annual check-ups, especially at 11-12 and 16 years of age when routine vaccines should be given.

o Set up a reminder system to alert parents and teens to make an appointment.
o When teens are in the office for any reason, discuss the need for immunizations so that there are no lingering concerns.
o To support healthcare providers, Unity Consortium has developed a program accessible on Unity4TeenVax.org that helps improve delivery of a confident, concise, and consistent recommendation for routinely recommended vaccines to adolescents.

A coordinated effort between teens, parents, and healthcare providers can positively impact preventive health decisions and raise the priority for adolescent immunization. For more information about Unity Consortium and the importance of preventive teen health strategies and vaccination visit http://www.unity4teenvax.org/.

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Judy Klein is President and a Founder of Unity Consortium. UNITY brings together a wide range of organizations all with a passion for improving health through a focus on adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization. Judy has held leadership positions at Merck and Procter and Gamble and is equally engaged with community organizations.  Judy has held a variety of leadership positions with Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) including on the Global and Philadelphia Boards of Directors. 

The Unity survey was supported by Pfizer Inc., a member of Unity Consortium. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll in 2016 among 506 teens aged 13-18, 515 parents of teens, and 405 primary care physicians. For complete survey methodology, please contact Unity.

UNITY Consortium is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that brings together diverse groups that share a common and passionate interest in health with a focus on adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization. Our members represent public and private organizations, industry, academia, healthcare providers, retailers, and advocacy groups. As one strong voice, Unity Consortium addresses the unique challenges surrounding adolescent and young adult preventive healthcare and immunization.

Minority Health Month: A Time to Fight for Every Heart

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If you knew that your biggest health threat was 80 percent preventable, what would you do to stop it? Would you fight? In recognition of Minority Health Month in April, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease has teamed up with Outcome Health to educate women of color about their leading cause of death.

If you knew that your biggest health threat was 80 percent preventable, what would you do to stop it? Would you fight? Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, causing the death of 1 in 4 females, and sadly 45 percent of women are not aware of this fact. And what’s even more startling is that this number is higher for African American (64 percent) and Hispanic (66 percent) women. In recognition of Minority Health Month in April, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease has teamed up with Outcome Health to educate women of color about their leading cause of death.

Heart disease claims the lives of nearly 48,000 African American and 21,000 Hispanic women annually. Black women are disproportionality impacted by hypertension-related heart disease and congestive heart failure compared to white women. The prevalence for diabetes, which increases the risk for heart disease, is twice as high in Hispanic women as white women. With more than 46 percent of African American women having high blood pressure and nearly one-third of Hispanic women, one of the risk factors for heart disease, we’ve got to do more to educate minority populations about their risks and prevention. This is especially important in hard-to-reach communities like Native American women, who may live in rural or remote areas, and studies show that their risk factors are much higher. American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women die from heart disease at younger ages than other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

While these numbers are alarming, there are some things that can be done to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Risk factors include poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, complications during pregnancy, and family history. Some risk factors you can control—such as high blood pressure, diet, and physical activity. Others are harder because they are beyond our control, such as family history. That’s why it’s critical that women seek preventive care and stay on top of their heart health by monitoring blood pressure, pulse, BMI, and cholesterol. To help lower your personal risk factors for heart disease, women can make an effort to eat smarter and follow a heart healthy diet and exercise at least 30 minutes per day.

Controlling your risk factors and living a heart healthy life may not be enough. Many women, especially minorities, continue to struggle with misdiagnoses, access to care, and affordability. Only half of African American women know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. We need to do a better job ensuring that doctors know what to look for in women and understand how their symptoms may be different from men’s and therefore how treatment is different.

Despite these challenges, here is encouraging news: More women are learning how to take charge of their heart health and demanding that they are included in the research and science of heart disease. WomenHeart is hosting its 18th annual Wenger Awardsdinner on May 7, 2018. Named for Nanette Kass Wenger, M.D., a pioneer in women’s cardiology, this annual event recognizes individuals and organizations for their extraordinary contributions to women’s heart health. This year’s honorees include: “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Chandra Wilson (Excellence in Media Award), the Honorable Debbie Dingell (D-MI) (Excellence in Public Service), Dr. Roxana Mehran (Excellence in Medical Leadership), and Dr. Clyde Yancy (Excellence in Medical Research). This year’s theme, “Fighting for Every Heart,” signals that despite race, culture, age or socio-economic status, all women deserve equal access to quality heart health care, education, treatment, and prevention.

WomenHeart will continue fighting for every heart until we eradicate heart disease in women. We will continue fighting for every heart until all women have the same access as men to accurate cardiac diagnostic testing and proper treatment. We will continue fighting for every heart until all women have the tools and resources to advocate for themselves and take charge of their heart health. We urge you to join us and fight for every heart.

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Mary McGowan is the CEO of WomenHeart, the nation’s first and still only patient centered organization serving the 48 million American women living with or at risk for heart disease. WomenHeart is solely devoted to advancing women’s heart health through advocacy, community education, and the nation’s only patient support network for women living with heart disease. WomenHeart is both a coalition and a community of thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, physicians, and health advocates, all committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. To learn more or to donate, visit www.womenheart.org.

Half of Americans Have High Blood Pressure According to New Guidelines

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Updated blood pressure guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association reveal that nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure.

A study by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association examined how new blood pressure guidelines impact treatment recommendations for U.S. adults. These updated guidelines reveal that nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, yet not all require blood pressure-lowering medication.

Previous guidelines defined high blood pressure as readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher, with 32% of participants falling into this range. By dropping the high blood pressure definition to 130/80 mmHg or above, nearly half (46%) of U.S. adults now have hypertension.

Fortunately, not all 46% of adults will require medication to lower their blood pressure. It’s estimated that the number of adults needing medication will increase by only 2% because medication is recommended for patients only with high cardiovascular risk or those with stage 2 hypertension.

Click here to read the full article posted by CardioSmart.org

 

Outcome Health Leverages Platform to Stop Spread of Flu

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Recent numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that this year’s flu season ranks among the worst in nearly a decade. As of Feb 3, influenza activity has spread to every state. In that week alone, 10 children died from flu-related illnesses, bringing this season’s total to 63.

Lena H. Sun from the Washington Post has done extensive reporting on this year’s epidemic. Health officials confirmed that this year’s flu season started early and that there’s been an increase in the number of people visiting their doctors or health-care providers for flu-like symptoms. Therefore, point of care is a powerful place for patients to learn about flu prevention as they ride out the rest of this season. Outcome Health is using its health-education platform to deploy information to its nationwide provider-network of 42,000 offices in an effort to educate patients on the best ways to prevent the spread of flu. This campaign will run from February 1st through March 31st.

Protect Yourself from the Flu! from Outcome Health on Vimeo.

For the most up to date influenza reports, visit the CDC’s Fluview.