Health Administration Programs, Public Health Department, Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida, Florida, USA
Background Despite high immunization rates, hundreds of thousands of poor and underserved children continue to lack their necessary immunizations and are at risk of acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease. Local Health Departments (LHDs) and public health clinicians figure prominently in efforts to address this problem.
Methods This exploratory research compared ten (10) North Carolina LHDs with respect to immunization delivery factors. The study sample was identified based on urban designation as well as county demographic and socio-economic indicators that identified predicted “pockets” of underimmunization. Survey instruments were used to identify specific LHD immunization delivery factors.
Results It was found that hours of operation, appointment policies, use and type of tracking systems, and wait times influence a health department’s ability to immunize underserved children. This exploratory research is of particular importance, because it suggests that the implementation of specific policy interventions may reduce the morbidity and mortality related to vaccine-preventable diseases in poor and underserved children. This research also highlights the significance of the nurses’ role in the policy making process in this important area of community health assurance.
Conclusion To improve childhood immunization rates, policy-makers should encourage adequate and appropriate funding for LHDs to adopt service delivery factors that are associated with higher-performing local health departments. LHDs should study the population they serve to further refine service delivery factors to meet the population’s needs.