Community-based Strategies for Immunizing the “Hard-To-Reach” Child: The New York State Immunization and Primary Health Care Initiative

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      The 1989–1991 measles epidemic in New York City drew attention to the low immunization coverage rates found in urban neighborhoods. This article describes a joint initiative of the New York State Department of Health and the Columbia University School of Public Health to mobilize parents to fully immunize their children. Eleven community-based organizations (CBOs) used a variety of outreach strategies to identify and enroll underimmunized children in primary care. They enrolled 4,555 children, of whom 75% needed at least one basic vaccine dose to be up-to-date for their age. Enrolled children were followed by CBOs to ensure compliance with appointments. After nine months of program operation, 73% of children in an evaluation sample were up-to-date for age for their immunizations. Immunization coverage increases were greatest for the youngest children, for whom coverage rates more than doubled in the first nine months of program operation. Ninety-one percent of these “hard to reach” children were tracked successfully by CBOs. This article compares the strategies used by the community organizations and concludes with suggestions for improvements of future community-based mobilization programs.
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