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Hepatitis B Outreach and Testing in Pierce and Snohomish Counties

For the last 25 years, WithinReach has been dedicated to making the connections Washington families need to be healthy. Today we connect more than 230,000 individuals a year to food and health resources, through toll-free hotlines, and three statewide health coalitions. One of these coalitions is the Hepatitis B Coalition (HBCW) of Washington State.
Hepatitis B is one of the most significant health disparity issues facing groups such as the Asian/Pacific Islander (API), African-born, and other immigrant and refugee populations. Nationally, there are about 1.3-1.5 million Americans with chronic hepatitis B. More than half of those are APIs alone. Those born in Asia or Africa experience an 8% or greater prevalence of chronic hepatitis B. Since 1997, the Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington state (HBCW) has worked to reduce hepatitis B disease and its complications through innovation, education, and community partnership, for communities at highest risk for hepatitis B. In Seattle-King County, we have been working with community based organizations, community clinics, health care facilities, and  health departments to conduct hepatitis B educational outreach, testing and linkage to care services for adults at high risk for this preventable liver disease. HBCW works to engage community members in the design and implementation of outreach, testing, and assist with connecting people to follow up care. In 2012-2013 HBCW and its partners outreached to 3,000 adults and tested over 650 for the hepatitis B virus.
The Hepatitis B Coalition is proud to announce that, thanks to a grant from the Gilead Foundation, we will be conducting outreach, testing, vaccination, and linkage to care efforts in Snohomish and Tacoma-Pierce Counties, alongside our community partners in those counties.
The Gilead Foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities around the world. They focus on expanding access to HIV and hepatitis education, outreach, prevention and health services both in the United States and internationally. We are excited that with the support of the Gilead Foundation we have the opportunity to further the work into Snohomish and Pierce Counties, and reach more people at high risk for Hepatitis B. At WithinReach we believe all families can be healthy. By making sure families in Washington have access to quality healthcare and the information they need to prevent disease, we can work together to build thriving communities filled with hope and bright futures.

Mapping the Connections that Make Families Healthy

At WithinReach we make the connections Washington families need to be healthy.  These connections happen at many scales, and sometimes they involve connections between partner organizations.  One such effort involving WithinReach and two of its partners, the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of Washington (UW), helped to create a new suite of tools that can promote healthy families across Washington.
A year ago we recruited a student from the UW Department of Geography to help us map immunization data in Washington State, recognizing that the state’s immunization registry is a vast, underutilized data cache.  One of the most compelling ways to make data accessible and usable is to map it.  Our original effort to map immunization data in Washington State had a goal of providing local health jurisdictions with a tool they can use in targeting their limited resources in areas of need.  These initial efforts grew to include a team of talented students from the UW who evaluated the completeness of data in the state’s immunization registry and created a tool that allows the state to produce meaningful maps (representations of data) with very little effort.
Ultimately, this project involved two essential types of connections:
#1: Connecting partners: WithinReach connected colleagues at the UW and DOH, managing the project and relationships that culminated with a presentation to Washington’s Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, and many others from the state’s Office of Immunization and Child Profile.
#2: Connecting data to practice: at WithinReach, we believe that our work must be informed by evidence and data; in this case we embodied this principle by working with our partners to make data accessible.  Work informed by evidence has the greatest potential to create positive, sustainable change.  Each partner shares the goal of thriving, healthy families in Washington State, so finding a way to connect our efforts in a data-driven capacity was a privilege for WithinReach.
This partnership benefitted all organizations involved: the DOH came away with substantive new tools and knowledge, the UW students had ‘real life’ experience that they could draw upon in their careers, and WithinReach has positioned itself to broaden how we conduct our work of connecting families to health resources.  Our next goal is to create dynamic, interactive, scalable maps that can be used by local health and residents of Washington to inform their decisions and enhance the knowledge of the communities where they live.
Health happens by working at all scales, starting with the individual but working up to policies that can create structural changes.  At WithinReach we appreciate being positioned to work across these levels to ensure optimal health across our state.

Tags: Department of Health   Immunization data   Mapping   University of Washington   

Musings on NIIW, Being a Mom and Immunizing My Children

Attending the 2013 National Infant Immunization Week event at Town Hall a few weeks ago with author of The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin and Seattle Mama Doc Wendy Sue Swanson stirred up old memories of making the decision to immunize my first child. With new parent vulnerability and emotions running high I got caught up in the immunization decision-making frenzy. This is my story….I was “that” mom–you know, the parent that I’m now trying to influence to make a reasonable, science-based decision to vaccinate their child. I wish I had a me back then who stuck up for vaccines, especially when I was exhausted from lack of sleep, barely bathing, and getting out of my house was a daily feat.After my son’s birth, I joined a local mom’s group to meet other parents in my neighborhood. What I didn’t know was how influential these other mothers would be on my health decisions, specifically vaccinating my son. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd session when vaccines came up. A mom asked me, “Are you going to vaccinate your son?” I had never thought twice about vaccinating my child up until that very moment. That question spurred a lengthy discussion, along with a whole host of concerns I had never considered. One mom added that she was using an “alternative [which I now refer to as delayed] schedule” by this pediatrician named Dr. Sears, and had I heard of this great book?

All of a sudden, I felt this alarm go off in my head and panic set in. I was taking my son in for his 2 month well-child visit NEXT WEEK, where he was supposed to get his first round of immunizations. At that moment it felt like a life or death decision that I was making. I was so emotionally wrought. What if my child was hurt by a vaccine? What if they were wrong about the vaccine-autism link and vaccines really did cause autism and my son would be the first causal link? What was I going to do? Well the first thing I did was march down to the bookstore and purchase myself a copy of that infamous Dr. Sears vaccine book. I read it front to back, highlighted passages, and shared sections with my husband. He was a believer now too! Luckily, I had a seasoned pediatrician who discussed and vetted my concerns with me and ultimately I relied on his expertise and experience and fully vaccinated my child. And, by the way, he was fine. He cried but it was fleeting, no fever, no lethargy, just my beautiful baby, except now he was protected.

Fast-forward to 2013: I am now the proud mother of two boys who are fully vaccinated. I work in the field of immunizations and ironically enough, I work on a campaign to empower parents to speak up about the importance of vaccines: that they are a smart, healthy decision, not only for the health of your child, but for the whole community. I wish other parents in my mom’s group had the guts or the knowledge to speak up and say that vaccines were safe, and that they were going to vaccinate their kids on the recommended schedule. Instead I heard from the minority, the vocal minority who scared the crap out of the sleep-deprived shell of who I am today. My reactions and emotions would have been so different 4 ½ years ago if just one mommy had stuck up for vaccines.

This is why campaigns like the Immunity Community and events like we hosted at Town Hall are so important. Social networks (as we are finding out) are such a key influence on us moms. We need pro-vaccine mommies to share the benefits of vaccines, so instead of fearing vaccines, we fear the diseases they protect against. Here are a few quotes and thoughts that resonated with me from the Town Hall event (which you can watch online), what resonates with you?

“Parents who delay or space out shots feel they have some control but in fact they are putting their children at risk; Dr. Bob Sears is preying on parent’s concerns.” -Seth Mnookin

“We put so much money and resources into vaccines so that we never see and experience the diseases they prevent but so little money goes into autism research and support yet we see or know people with autism every day.” -Seth Mnookin

“People feel smarter if they are outsmarting the consensus.” – Wendy Sue Swanson

“Delaying vaccines puts infants at risk when they are most vulnerable. It is not any safer.” -Wendy Sue Swanson

“How do you figure out what the truth is? Identify when you are making a decision based on emotion vs. science; ask yourself, am I having an emotional reaction?” – Seth Mnookin


Tags: immunizations   NIIW   Panic Virus   vaccines   

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