Maine Public Health Professional Recognized as Immunization Champion
Apr 22, 2015
Every state needs a local source for parents to get immunization information they can trust. In addition to state health departments, many states have immunization coalitions, immunization program managers and various public health professionals that help to ensure that parents get the vaccine information and access they need to keep their families healthy.
In Maine for instance, public health advocates and policy makers understand that less than optimal vaccination rates are impacting the health of the state through disease outbreaks, missed school, hospitalizations and even, in some cases, death. Unfortunately, the state of Maine has been ranked as having one of the highest rates of whooping cough infections and unvaccinated kindergartners in the nation. However, through the work of dedicated public health professionals like Cassandra Grantham, the Maine Childhood Immunization Champion Award recipient, the state is making great strides at addressing these concerns.
Cassandra was born and raised in Maine. She loves her state and its people, and she is determined to help prevent the spread of disease in Maine communities. As the parent of two children, Cassandra realizes that fellow Maine parents just want to do what’s best for their children. That is why she has made it both a personal and professional priority to ensure that parents have access to scientifically accurate information about vaccines so that they can make well-informed immunization decisions for themselves and their children.
As Program Director of Child Health at MaineHealth, a not-for-profit healthcare system serving 11 of Maine’s 16 counties, as well as co-chair of the Maine Immunization Coalition, Cassandra has served as the backbone of the state’s immunization programs since 2010.
Over the past few years she has launched several educational initiatives, such as the creation of the Vax Maine Kids website, the Vax Maine Kids Facebook page and the Vax Maine Kids blog which addresses a various childhood health topics ranging from safe sleep to immunizations. She even launched the Kohl’s Vax Kids program, designed to increase immunization awareness among parents who are most likely to delay or skip their child’s vaccinations.
In recognizing the important role that providers play in addressing vaccine hesitancy, Cassandra designed and implemented a clinical training and competency program that has trained over 200 MaineHealth clinical support staff on how to reduce vaccine errors and how to counsel families on vaccination. She was also part of the leadership team that implemented a special collaborative program known as First STEPS, which was part of the Improving Health Outcomes for Children (IHOC) initiative run out of the Muskie School of Public Service. The First STEPS program has been credited with an 11.1% increase in overall immunization rates for 2, 6, and 13-year-olds among participating medical practices and is just another example of the types of projects Cassandra has been involved in.
To ensure health providers and patients have access to the most current information available, Cassandra also managed a joint initiative between MaineHealth and the State of Maine’s Immunization Program to create an interface between electronic medical records and the state immunization registry.
Cassandra’s multifaceted and innovative approaches to increasing immunization rates within her state are inspirational and exemplary, and why she has been selected as Maine’s Childhood Immunization Champion.
To find out more about public health professionals like Cassandra that work in YOUR state, check out the information available here, here and here. There are plenty of ways that we can help support the work that these people do on a daily basis, to include helping to disseminate educational information and supporting strong immunization legislation.
In honor of National Infant Immunization Week (#NIIW), please help us to acknowledge other public health professionals who are doing great things in support of vaccines. Mentioning them in the comments will not only give them the recognition they deserve, but may also help them to get nominated next year!
This guest post was written by Alethea Mshar out of concern for her son Ben. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog Ben’s Writing, Running Mom. Like all parents, my child’s health...
I could hear it clearly from across the auditorium. A distinctive cough in a very small child. It was painful to my ears and I brought a sinking feeling to my heart. My daughter glanced over...