Monday, October 08, 2012
ROCHESTER, Minn. — If you attend elementary school in Olmsted County you can get your flu vaccines between classes. It's not just a good idea, but also a demonstration of how public health can improve when agencies and organizations work together. Organizers believe it to be the only countywide program of its kind in the state.
Olmsted County has 30 elementary schools, both public and private. Since the flu knows no boundaries, health care shouldn't either. That was the thinking behind the consortium formed by area providers Olmsted Medical Center and Mayo Clinic, Olmsted County Public Health Services, and the participating education districts.
Beginning in September and ending Oct. 11, the immunization clinics have offered shots or mist with parental permission in libraries and gyms by nurses from the two health centers. Halfway through the schedule, more than 1,100 youngsters have been immunized. This doesn't include children who received shots at their own doctor's office.
"It makes it less likely that someone will be left unprotected," says school nurse Tabitha Hanson.
"Plus it saves time, money and work absences for parents."
Families are encouraged at the beginning of school with detailed materials sent home. They then register online — something unique with this program — and are billed for the immunizations by their respective provider. Children without health insurance are covered by the Minnesota N Vaccines for Children program.
The program is a hit with school nurses.
"School nurses are feeling more involved and part of the solution to better the health outcomes of our students with chronic conditions," says Olmsted County Public Health educator Shaylene Baumbach.
The program had six schools the past three years and expanded thanks to outreach, coordination, professionally produced materials, toolkits for school nurses and a willingness to work together. The original impetus to expand came from a cooperative effort among area health care providers. The Southeast Minnesota Beacon program — now in its third year of involvement — helped accelerate the initiative, sharing information and ideas with school systems over the 11 counties in southeast Minnesota.
Organizers say the program is inexpensive and can be accomplished almost anywhere. The takeaway is that if health care is made easy for people, they will take steps to stay healthy. With more children immunized, there's less risk of flu spreading in the schools. That means fewer sick days and better attendance.
The upcoming immunization schedule in Olmsted County:
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