Shot in the arm for immunizations: Assistance on the way

A new AMA primer for physicians tackles an aspect of racial disparities by promoting on-time vaccinations for all.

Posted July 11, 2005.

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The recent release by the American Medical Association of a new primer, "Improving Immunization: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Populations," is another important milestone in the increasingly close relationship between the medical and public health sectors.

"Improving Immunizations" is the third in the Roadmaps for Clinical Practice series produced by the AMA. It is designed to provide easy-to-use tools for physicians to help them ensure that their patients' immunizations are up to date. The primer, available via the Internet, also provides important information for patients and their families, including immunization schedules for both children and adults.

There can be little debate about the value of immunizations, but it is an area that too frequently is taken for granted by both patients and health care workers. Vaccines now protect patients from at least 14 diseases that at one time or another were prevalent in the United States. But there is widespread evidence that many individuals -- particularly in minority communities -- are not receiving the benefits available from these vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that coverage rates for vaccine-preventable diseases average less than 70% nationally.

Recent studies indicate that influenza vaccine coverage for adults 65 and older is 70% for whites, 52% for African-Americans and 46% for Latinos. In the same age group, deaths linked to vaccine-preventable diseases are the fifth-leading cause of death.

In general, greater gaps are seen in the immunization levels for adolescents and adults than for children. But the CDC emphasizes that racial and ethic disparities exist among pediatric, adolescent and adult populations.

Childhood immunization rates hover around the 90% level, but African-American and Latino children are significantly less likely to receive recommended vaccinations than their white counterparts.

In addition to the downloadable online version, a printed edition of the four-booklet primer is available, while supplies last, by e-mail request ([email protected]" target="_blank">link) or by phone at 312-464-2456. Also available are the two previous titles in the Roadmaps for Clinical Practice series: "Assessment and Management of Adult Obesity" and "Intimate Partner Violence."

The series (the next installment is slated to address healthy lifestyles, focusing on the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs) is an outgrowth of the Healthy People 2010 project to address the 10 leading health indicators that affect morbidity and mortality. It comes as the result of a memo of understanding between the AMA and the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

The Roadmaps series stems from the growing awareness of the need for increased cooperation by the practicing physician and public health communities in addressing some of the preventable conditions that affect morbidity and mortality in the United States. The primers' goal is to provide physicians and others in the health care community with clinical strategies and tools to help them address the leading causes of preventive disease and premature death.

Publication of the Roadmaps series is a positive demonstration of the growing sense of unity among various segments of the health care community in efforts to integrate disease prevention and health promotion into routine patient care. Over the long term, the real beneficiaries will be the nation and its citizens.

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External links

"Improving Immunizations: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Populations," part of the AMA's Roadmaps for Clinical Practice series (link)

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