Boosting Immunization Rates in Milwaukee: MCW and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Partner on Project

Aug. 7, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) received a three-year, $1.3 million award from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to improve the rates of childhood immunization in Milwaukee neighborhoods in which there are significant disparities in immunization coverage.

Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH, Kellner Professor in Pediatrics at MCW, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children, and Director of Health Equity and Urban Clinical Care Partnership, is the primary investigator of the project, titled “Community Health Improvement for Milwaukee’s Children (CHIMC): Take Control – IMMUNIZE!” Dr. Willis is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Childhood immunizations are a key factor in the prevention and control of preventable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, vaccinations save the lives of more than three million people every year.

However, there are significant immunization rate disparities among children under the age of 4 years of age. CHIMC originated as a partnership between MCW researchers and community partners using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to address immunization rate disparities. In partnership with community members, researchers designed a social media campaign and an education program and identified key factors associated with both barriers and facilitators of immunization compliance. After four years of the project titled “Save Lives – Immunize,” the immunization rates increased by 82% in children 19-35 months of age, which is consistent with the Healthy People 2020 goal (80%) for this age group.

This project will build upon findings from the previous research efforts to disseminate the findings from “Save Lives – Immunize” and facilitate adoption of this CBPR approach by local non-profit organizations for families and children younger than four years old. A web-based immunization toolkit will be developed to engage families and other community members, while utilizing social media strategies and tactics.

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