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How One Teen is Engaging Her Peers to Help Eliminate HPV Related Cancers

February 27, 2018 1 comment

By Allyson Rosenblum

What if you could save a life or prevent someone from the devastation of cancer simply be providing them with information, would you do it?  What if it was someone you knew or cared about, would you do it then? 

IMG_3767 6.17.55 PMMy name is Allyson and I am a 17 year-old high school student living in Southern California. Earlier this year, I set out to do something that I hope will make a difference in the lives of others. I would like to encourage teenagers who care about their health and the health of future generations to join me.

What I’m asking is fairly simple. I am requesting high school and college students to pass along valuable information about HPV infection and prevention to those they know and care about.  

I have personally seen HPV and cancer devastate the lives and dreams of people I love. Beginning in October of last year, I witnessed my mother’s difficult battle with cancer every day as she endured three surgeries and eight months of chemotherapy. Two months later, my cousin informed me that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer resulting from an HPV infection she acquired as a teenager. At just 35 years old, she has now had to accept the fact she will never be able to have biological children of her own. Seeing all this pain and needless suffering has moved me to take action.

I decided to start a social media campaign on Facebook and Instagram, which I called “Two Shots To Beat Cancer.”

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My goal is to enlist high school and college students throughout the U.S. to help in passing along information about the importance of early HPV vaccination to other high school and college students using various social media platforms.

Let me emphasize that this campaign is not about teen sex.  Rather, it’s about prevention of HPV prior to sexual activity. If people can avoid acquiring the strains of the HPV virus that are linked to cancer, they will be less likely to suffer with an HPV related cancer later in life or pass the virus on to others.  This is why the CDC recommends the HPV vaccine to 11-12 year olds. However, if a child did not get vaccinated in their pre-teens, it’s not too late. The vaccine is recommended up to age 26 for women and age 21 for men.

Unfortunately, most people my age do not want to talk about health related issues. We’re often uncomfortable talking about such topics, especially with adults, and reticent to share private information about ourselves. As such, many of us remain unaware of the dangers and prevalence of HPV, and questions and concerns often go unaddressed. However, it is precisely the lack of education and informed knowledge that allows the HPV epidemic to persist. By sharing timely and credible information among peers, I hope to empower my generation to take responsibility for their health and to help encourage better health practices among our peers.

I started this campaign in January and through the power of social media have already been able to get 1807 high school and college students to join me in all 50 states. With an average of 600 followers per student, that gives us the potential of reaching 1,084,200 students and counting!  However, I’m not content with that. I believe we can do far better! In fact, if high school and college students were aware that there are 14 million new people acquiring HPV in the U.S. each year and over 50% of them are teens and young adults who are just becoming sexually active, than I believe they may see their important role in this mission.

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I would encourage any high school or college student who cares about their own health, or the health of future generations, to find out more by visiting my website at TwoShotsToBeatCancer.org and joining the Two Shots To Beat Cancer Facebook Page and following our Two Shots To Beat Cancer Instagram account.

By joining me in this worthwhile endeavor, we can be the generation that puts an end to HPV related cancers. By posting to social media and sending letters to politicians, newspapers and school board administrators, we can make a difference and help to stop the spread of HPV. It takes little time, costs no money and by encouraging students to engage in important and life-changing conversations, we can save lives and prevent needless suffering.

Immunization Funding is an Investment in Public Health that Saves Lives and Dollars

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

ba3f8b28-e868-42b5-b217-1d8da24ffbd8For the past two decades, every President has proposed a fiscal budget that has underfunded immunization programming. Fortunately, over the years, Congress has been steadfast in approving higher amounts. As we approach another crossroad in our fiscal planning, we must, once again, call upon Congress to properly fund critical prevention programs.  

In the following Op Ed published in The Hill, Every Child By Two Executive Director, Amy Pisani, makes the case that Congress should support the CDC’s Immunization Program to the fullest extent possible. In order to truly effect change, the program requires $1.03 billion. While it may seem like a hefty sum, the argument in favor of full funding is that an investment in public health will save lives as well as future expense. 

 

Undercutting the Immunization Program

Puts Both Lives and Dollars at Risk

 

By Amy Pisani, executive director of Every Child By Two, a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in families and individuals.

 

Earlier this month, President Trump released his proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget. It notes an impressive achievement: For every $1 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spends on preventing fraud and abuse, the agency saves $5.

Whenever you can spend money to save money in government, it’s a no brainer for policymakers. Unfortunately, that rationale seems to have escaped the President on the issue of vaccination.

For every $1 we spend on childhood vaccines, we save $10.10, which is nearly double the savings of preventing fraud. The vaccines given to children born over the past two decades will result in a savings of $360 billion in direct and nearly $1.65 trillion in societal costs.

The benefits don’t end with children. The U.S. still spends nearly $26.5 billion annually treating adults over the age of 50 for just four diseases that could be prevented by vaccines: influenza, pertussis, pneumococcal disease and shingles.

The majority of these avoidable costs are borne by federal health insurance programs. Yet for the second year in a row, the President has proposed gutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Immunization Program.

This is not just a discussion of dollars saved. It’s also a matter of lives saved. Over the past 23 years the Vaccines for Children program has prevented 381 million illnesses, 855,000 early deaths and 25 million hospitalizations, but we have much more work to do.

(Click here to read the full article on The Hill)

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For information pertaining to the preparedness of our nation, and for suggestions on what we can do as a nation to make our country stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats, review Vaccinate Your Family’s second annual State of the ImmUnion report here.   

Meningitis B and Your College Student: Preventing the Call

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Emily was a 19-year-old college student when she called home complaining of a headache. Thirty-six hours later, she passed away due to serogroup B meningococcal disease. Emily was able to donate six of her organs, together with bones and tissue, to save the lives of five others.

Emily’s mother, Alicia Stillman, who graduated from Arizona State University, returned to Arizona after founding The Emily Stillman Foundation to honor her late daughter’s life. She shared the story of how Emily contracted Meningitis B and her family decision to donate Emily’s organs. She also explained the work she is doing to help educate others about the availability of Meningitis B vaccines in the United States and to encourage organ donation. She spoke with Debbie McCune Davis, Director of The Arizona Partnership for Immunization (TAPI), who is leading the effort to increase awareness of the approved vaccine and who is working with Arizona Universities to promote the Off to College education campaign.

Together these two women share a message of hope, as they work to save lives and prevent serogroup B meningococcal disease by educating parents, students, educators and medical professionals across Arizona and the nation.

 

 

Alicia: I always felt I was living a blessed life. I enjoyed motherhood. I had three beautiful children, a wonderful husband, and a successful career. I believed I was doing everything right to raise healthy, independent children, as I sent each one off to college.

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Emily and the Stillman family after her high school graduation.

My middle daughter Emily had a fabulous first year away at a small liberal arts college in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 2013, she was well into the second semester of her sophomore year when she called home one evening, complaining of a headache. Thinking it was from lack of sleep, I advised her to take some ibuprofen, and to touch base with me in the morning. Little did I know that was to be the last time I would ever hear my Emily’s voice.

The call the next morning wouldn’t come from my Emily, but rather from the Dean of the College. She told me my daughter had been admitted to the hospital during the night with Bacterial Meningitis, that she was very sick, and I needed to get there as soon as possible. I remember insisting that this was not possible because even at that time, I knew she had received “the meningitis shot”. In fact, I even remembered that before she left for college, she had received a meningitis booster. What I did not yet know at that time was that the vaccine she had received (MenACWY) only protected her against 4 of the 5 common serogroups of Meningococcal Disease. I had no idea that there was a strain she was not protected against because a vaccine for that strain was not even available in the United States at that time.

Less than 36 hours later I said goodbye to my baby. My beautiful girl that I had promised to always protect and take care of was gone. As I said goodbye to her on that cold February morning, I told her that I would be ok…and that I would figure this out.  I would make sure this could not happen to other people.

Debbie: Stories like Alicia’s weren’t preventable in the U.S. when Emily Stillman contracted and lost her life to Meningitis B, but they are today. In October of 2014 and January of 2015, the FDA approved licensing for two different vaccinations for Meningitis B. Soon after that, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that college age students should talk with their doctors about Meningitis B.

In Arizona, our Board of Regents (the governing board of our state university system) took quick action to recommend all incoming freshmen get the vaccine.  There had been outbreaks in the PAC 12 schools and Arizona wanted to promote healthy campuses. We, at TAPI, worked with the Universities, their Medical Directors and all of our professional medical organizations including Osteopaths, Pharmacists, Nurses, and Pediatricians to put forth a unified message and raise awareness.

Our Off to College flyer launched an awareness campaign for parents and college age students to make certain each has the benefit of protection from all strains of meningitis.

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Alicia: I live my promise to my Emily every single day with my work at The Emily Stillman Foundation. Before the vaccine was approved in the U.S., I discovered the vaccine was available in Canada. We took busloads of families across the Detroit/Windsor border into Canada to get the MenB vaccine. We met with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and many members of Congress to urge the fast tracking of the licensing process. I testified at the CDC and encouraged ACIP to grant a firm recommendation to protect our adolescents and young adults. I set up vaccination clinics locally to provide the vaccine before medical practices were willing to hear about it. I speak nationally, working with colleges, medical practices, and parents to raise awareness to this hideous disease, its symptoms, and the vaccinations now available to prevent it.

I won’t stop until the MenB vaccine is on the required list, and is available to all people.  Only then will my promise to my Emily be fulfilled. 

Debbie: Today, we at TAPI are taking it a step further…we don’t want kids to wait until they’ve moved into their dorms to receive their vaccination. 

We are working with high schools, parents groups, physicians, athletic departments and more to promote Vaccinate Before You Graduate here in Arizona.  We want this to become part of the college prep routine—take your college entrance exams, turn in your transcripts, apply for scholarships, choose your school, order your cap and gown and vaccinate!

 

As mothers, and as experts – one from a heart-breaking loss, and one as a professional who works tirelessly to prevent disease – we urge you to enjoy these moments with your child.  However, as you are giving them that final send off, smoothing the bedding on their dorm bunk, stocking snacks and toiletries, telling them to study hard and have fun (but not too much fun), asking them to be safe, be sure to also give them the tools to stay healthy.

Make sure they have their boosters, that they are up to date on all vaccination and be sure your health professional has given your child protection from all strains of meningitis, including Meningitis B. If your child has already started that journey and is off to college, check with the student health services at their school for information about vaccine availability on campus.

Do it for your child, do it for yourself and do it for Emily.


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Alicia Stillman lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan with her husband of 29 years, Michael. In addition to her angel daughter Emily, she has two live children – Karly, 25, and Zachary, 21. Alicia holds an MBA in Management Accounting, and is the Accounting Director for a multi-state Law Firm. She is the Co-Founder and Director of The Emily Stillman Foundation, founded in 2014 in memory of her late daughter Emily. The Foundation has a trifold mission to raise awareness for and encourage organ and tissue donation, to educate about Meningococcal Disease as well as all vaccine preventable diseases, and to advocate globally for all health and wellness issues. Most recently, Alicia partnered with Patti Wukovits to co-found the Meningitis B Action Project.  Alicia can be reached through the Foundation at emilystillmanfoundation@gmail.com.

 

McCune_Davis_16 - Member Photo.jpgDebbie McCune Davis has served as Director for The Arizona Partnership for Immunization, better known as TAPI, since February 1996. She was an elected member of the Arizona Legislature, serving from 1979 until 1994 and again from January 2003 until her retirement in January 2017, serving in both the House of Representatives and the Arizona State Senate. In her local community Debbie serves on numerous committees and task forces, working to improve the health status of women and children in Arizona. She has established a reputation for being a knowledgeable advocate for maternal and child health and childcare issues. In 2012 she was recognized for her advocacy by the Children’s Action Alliance in Phoenix and Every Child By Two in Washington, DC. Debbie also served on the Board of Directors of the American Immunization Registry Association and she volunteers her time as a member of the planning committee of the National Conference on Immunization and Health Coalitions. She is married to Glenn Davis and has a blended family of 5 children and 3 grandchildren. More information about TAPI may be found at www.whyimmunize.org.

Congress Proposes Big Cuts to Prevention and Public Health Fund

February 6, 2018 1 comment
by Erica DeWald, Director of Advocacy, Every Child By Two

Congress is Proposing a $2.85B Cut to Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) over 10 Years

Congress is once again developing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government from shutting down on Thursday, February 8. Every Child By Two (ECBT) is pleased to report that the proposed CR budget also includes critical funding for many public health programs including two years of funding for community health centers and the National Health Service Corps.

Unfortunately, it also includes a $2.85 billion cut over ten years to the nation’s Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF).

Here’s how it’s broken down (courtesy of Trust for America’s Health):

Fiscal Year Current Law Latest CR Net Cumulative Net
FY2018 $900M $900M 0 0
FY2019 $800M $900M +$100M +$100M
FY2020 $800M $1.0B +$200M +$300M
FY2021 $800M $1.0B +$200M +$500M
FY2022 $1.25B $1.1B -$150M +$350M
FY2023 $1.0B $1.1B +$100M +$450M
FY2024 $1.7B $1.1B -$600M -$150M
FY2025 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$1.05B
FY2026 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$1.95B
FY2027 $2.0B $1.1B -$900M -$2.85B
FY2028 $2.0B $0B -$2.0B -$4.85B

As we’ve shared in previous updates, the PPHF accounts for 53% of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Immunization Program budget. Any cut could mean serious reductions in our country’s and states’ abilities to:

  • Support the science that informs our national immunization policy.
  • Provide a safety net to uninsured, low-income adults by enabling vaccine purchases;
  • Monitor the safety of vaccines.
  • Educate healthcare providers.
  • Perform community outreach.
  • Conduct surveillance, laboratory testing and epidemiology in response to disease outbreaks.

With the U.S. continuously facing costly outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, measles and pertussis (also known as whooping cough), now is not the time to weaken the backbone of our nation’s public health infrastructure.

We are watching these budget developments closely.

While it’s somewhat reassuring that Congress is replacing the money they cut from the PPHF to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in this CR, no cut is acceptable. On the positive side, this delay in finalizing the budget does give us time to shore up support among Congressional Members for the critical services funded by the PPHF.

We will continue to send you updates on immunization funding and will be sure to let you know if we need to begin reaching out to our Members of Congress.

Thank you as always for your support of immunizations!



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Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family has prepared our second annual State of the ImmUnion report to examine how strong our defenses truly are against vaccine-preventable diseases and what we can do as public health advocates and legislators to make our country stronger and more resilient in the face of emerging health threats.

We hope this report will offer you insights into areas of improvement to strengthen our protection against dangerous, and potentially deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases.

The State of the ImmUnion: A Report on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the U.S.

February 1, 2018 Leave a comment

As we continue to reflect on the State of the Union this week, Every Child By Two’s Vaccinate Your Family program has prepared a special report that examines the State of the ImmUnion.

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At a time when legislators are examining ways to make our country stronger and more resilient, this report emphasizes the need to improve our defenses against emerging health threats by detailing ways in which we can protect our citizens from the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The statistics are staggering.  Vaccine preventable diseases are currently costing our economy billions of dollars, all while threatening the health of our citizens.  As an example, each year flu causes anywhere from 3,000-49,000 deaths in the U.S. and over $87 billion in direct and indirect costs to our economy.  And this is just the toll of one particular disease over the course of one year.  There are plenty of other vaccine preventable diseases that we can, and should, turn our attention to.  There are also many actions we can take as a nation to raise immunization rates and lower disease incidence, all while saving both lives and money.

So what is it that public health advocates and legislators can do?

In the second annual State of the ImmUnion report, Vaccinate Your Family details the challenges that lie ahead and offers specific ways in which legislators can support strong vaccine policies.

Immunization supporters across the country are encouraged to share this resource with legislators and call upon them to strengthen the State of the ImmUnion.

Simply send them an email or tag them in a tweet with a link to the report (http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti).

Here are some suggested messages you can use:

Preventable diseases cost the U.S. economy billions each year! Legislators (tag key state/federal legislators) can help reduce these costs by ensuring all citizens have access to life-saving and cost-saving #vaccines. Get the facts from Vaccinate Your Family in their 2018 #StateoftheImmUnion report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti #SOTI2018

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What should legislators be doing to make the #SOTU more resilient in the face of emerging health threats? Strengthen the #StateoftheImmUnion with suggestions found in Vaccinate Your Family’s #SOTI2018 report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti

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Disease outbreaks like seasonal flu cost money and lives. Find out how policymakers can help ensure a strong #StateoftheImmUnion in Vaccinate Your Family’s #SOTI2018 report. http://vaccinateyourfamily.org/soti

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Thank you for your continued support and stay tuned for updates on how Vaccinate Your Family’s State of the ImmUnion report can be used to advocate for strong immunization policies throughout the year. 

Resolve To Protect Your Family From Cancer

January 9, 2018 1 comment

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By Shaundra L. Hall, Southwest Regional Director, National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC)

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month and if you’ve resolved to make healthier choices in 2018, then ensuring your loved ones are vaccinated against the deadly strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) should be on the top of the “resolutions to keep” list.

Cancer prevention is a gift of health for your child’s, and grandchildren’s, future.  But it’s only a gift if given early in life.

My journey with HPV began at the age of 17.

My very first Pap smear exam had an abnormal result. Over the next several years, I would have some normal and some abnormal Paps, and it was eventually determined that my cervical dysplasia required medical treatment to remove abnormal cell tissue that might become cancerous. I went on to have multiple procedures over the years – a LEEP/cold knife cone, cryosurgery – you name it, I had it.  So many painful treatments chipping away precious tissue from my cervix.

ShaundraHall2Years later, after my husband and I were married and bought our first house together, we started thinking about starting a family. When pregnancy didn’t happen as quickly as we had hoped, I made a visit to my gynecologist’s office. Back in to the stirrups I go, and with one look heard “Ohhhh…

My heart sank.

Until we had started trying for a family, I’d had four years of completely normal Pap tests and I felt confident that I was healthy enough to get pregnant.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

During the course of about 10 months, some cancer switch turned on and I went from 4 years of a healthy cervix to invasive cervical cancer.  About fourteen days after my doctor’s appointment, I was in the hospital having a hysterectomy to save my life from a HPV related cancer.  Not only were my husband and I in our 20s trying to deal with the fact we would never have our own biological kids, but now we had the big “C” staring us in the face.  To say it was devastating is an understatement.

I wish I could say that I left all of that sadness from nearly 20 years ago behind me, but the reminders of my battle with HPV related cancer is with me every day. When I see my scar or when my legs, ankles and feet swell due to lymphedema from my missing abdominal lymph nodes, it’s clear that I can’t escape what the cancer has done to me. I think about it when I encourage my husband to keep each and every dental exam to ensure that he is not at risk for HPV related oropharyngeal or head and neck cancer.  My husband has been an amazing partner sticking with me through all of the intimacy challenges related to the physical modifications to my body, and I only wish we had the opportunity to be protected from HPV when we were younger. Read more…

Impact of Latest Congressional Actions on Immunization Programs

December 12, 2017 Leave a comment
By Erica DeWald, Director of Advocacy, Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family

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As we near the end of 2017, we want to extend a big thanks to each of you! Without your support for immunizations, our voice would not be heard in Washington. Only through regular outreach to our lawmakers have we been able to demonstrate the impact federal policies would have on vaccination rates and thus our country’s health.

Unfortunately, our work for the year isn’t over yet. We are still closely monitoring the appropriations process as well as the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for 8.9 million children who are uninsured.

Congress has twice extended the deadline for an FY18 spending bill. The next Continuing Resolution (CR) expires December 22. A new proposal from House Appropriations Chairman Frelinghuysen would extend funding for all non-defense spending through January 19 and reauthorize the CHIP funding for five-years. Unfortunately, the proposal also includes $6.35 billion in cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). As a reminder, PPHF accounts for 53% of the Immunization Program’s funding.

The Immunization Program’s non-PPHF funding also remains in jeopardy. The Senate has proposed level funding from FY17 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Immunization Program (which received a 4 million dollar cut last year), while the House has proposed a 50 million dollar cut. That large of a cut would devastate immunization infrastructure. 

Both CHIP and the Immunization Program enjoy bipartisan support but Congress has had difficulty understanding how their funding choices affect our nation’s health. If fewer children are able to access health care through CHIP – either because Congress is delaying reauthorization or because they have instituted new demands that states match funds – then less children will end up receiving life-saving vaccines. Second, if Congress uses Prevention & Public Health Fund (PPHF) dollars to help pay for CHIP as proposed in the House bill, they are in fact cutting essential funds from the very public health clinics and immunization programs that accept CHIP and provide care to children.

Please consider calling your Representative and Senators to urge them to support ALL public health funding. Ask them to reauthorize CHIP without using the PPHF as a budgetary offset. You can find contact information for your legislators at whoismyrepresentative.com.

Every Child By Two/Vaccinate Your Family will continue to watch these legislative issues and do our best to keep you informed.   

Thank you again for your interest and support!