The Employer Vaccination Project
Because of the rising prevalence of influenza and its economic burden, Safeguard Iowa Partnership and the Iowa Department of Public Health have begun a concerted effort to improve vaccination rates among Iowans through the Employer Vaccination Project. A logical way to way to boost adult vaccinations is to promote and offer them in places that are convenient and accessible: the workplace.
The project’s goal is to help employers establish worksite vaccination programs to increase vaccination rates among the workforce population. This will be achieved by the creation of a “toolkit” that provides instructions for interested businesses to implement a program that provide vaccinations to employees.
Public Health Involvement
Public health agencies could not function without thriving partnerships and coalitions of all kinds. The employer vaccination project creates a great opportunity for partnership between public health agencies and businesses. When businesses offer vaccinations to employees, they will need a vendor to provide those vaccinations, which is a role that public health can fill.
Traditionally, public health serves low socio-economic status populations. However, the goal of public health is to serve the entire community and make the community safer and healthier as a whole. With the vaccination rates being consistently low among the general population, every member of the community is placed at risk. It sends a clear message on the importance of providing vaccinations across the entire population. Because of this, it is important to remove barriers that prevent public health agencies from easily providing vaccinations to businesses, a place that allows access to the majority of the adult population.
Benefits to becoming involved with an Employer Vaccination Project
Public health agencies are no stranger to budget cuts. More and more programs that public health offers are being removed because health departments no longer have the funds to continue offering them to the public. Public health departments generally do not operate as a business or view themselves as an organization that can be profitable. However, with budget cuts, generating revenue has the potential to save programs that are losing funding. Becoming a vaccination vendor to businesses gives public health the opportunity to earn income and reinvest it into programs that have lost funding.
Public health is often poorly understood, invisible, and unfamiliar; as a result, many people may mistakenly believe public health has little to offer them. Public health can also use vaccinating businesses as an opportunity to reshape their reputation in their community. Many members of the community do not know that their public health department serves more than just the low-socio economic status population and assume their health departments are not meant for them. This view of public health’s role needs to be altered, because in reality, public health is meant to serve the entire community. Becoming a vaccination vendor increases public health’s visibility in the community and allow the agency to affect more community members.
As discussed, vaccination rates among the population are very low. Having an unvaccinated population puts every member of the community at risk for an outbreak. The negative consequences of the declining vaccinated population are a very serious threat and must be addressed. When public agencies can act as a vendor and offer vaccinations to businesses in their community, it eliminates many barriers preventing the adult population, the population that makes up the majority of the unvaccinated population, from being vaccinated.
Every decade, Healthy People provides national goals and objectives that are designed to guide national health promotion and disease prevention efforts to improve the health of all people in the United States. For Healthy People 2020, a goal is to increase the vaccinated population to 80%, which is far from being accomplished in Iowa. Public health can help achieve these goals by reaching out to the population that makes up the majority of the unvaccinated population, which are adults in the workplace. Not only will public health help Iowa meet the Healthy People 2020 goal, but generally there is more funding given to agencies that are making progress in meeting the Healthy People goals. In addition, it coincides with the Healthy People 2020 goal to increase the number of employers, regardless of size, that offer a comprehensive workplace health program for employees.
Public health agencies have had success with many of their programs in the past. Adding a new role for public health in the community can be intimidating. However, with decreasing funding and a rising unvaccinated population, it is crucial that public health adapts. That is why help is available. This toolkit provides tools and resources to guide public health agencies to develop partnerships and collaboration with businesses. Using this toolkit will help public health agencies engage workplaces as partners in boosting rates of adult immunizations with a focus on influenza vaccination and pandemic preparedness.