22823 Culturally Competent H1N1 Vaccine Communications and Outreach in Maryland

Monday, April 19, 2010: 11:35 AM
Regency Ballroom VI
Ivan C.A. Walks, MD , President and CEO, Ivan Walks & Associates, LLC
Carlessia A. Hussein, RN, DrPH , Director, Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Background: As a result of its proximity to the Nation’s capital, the State of Maryland must be ready to continue essential operations when confronted with all forms of man-made or natural occurring disasters.  Any compromise of essential public services for an extended period of time could cause catastrophic personal and economic losses that could negatively impact the State’s well being as well as that of its 24 distinct jurisdictions.  Consequently, an outbreak of an infectious and virulent strain of influzena such as the current H1N1 (Swine) Flu threatens to stress the state’s personnel resources and infrastructure in a manner unlike that of other hazards. Althought there is a broadly focused Pan Flu Plan in place, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities (MHHD) and Office of Communications have together deemed it necessary to implement a program of health communications that ensures government continuity, services, and the safety while also accounting for cultural groups, structures and influences that are diverse, and that are 41.3 percent of the population and growing. 

Setting: The public health landscape of Maryland’s 23 counties and the City of the Baltimore to include DHMH, the local health departments, community-based clinics, and faith-based organizations.

Population: Maryland’s many priority and traditionally hard-to-reach communities who are at risk due to their beliefs and behaviors surrounding H1N1 and the benefits of vaccination against infection.

Project Description: Session attendees will be provided with a brief presentation on the cultural context of Maryland’s public health environment.  The discussion will cover 1) leveraging cultural competency experts to create audience appropriate and relevant themes and messaging for H1N1 outreach, 2) planning and implementation of a Statewide Community H1N1 Swine Flu Outreach Program that incorporates cultural competency skills training for lay outreach workers and health literacy messaging to facilitate the delivery and promotion of needed public health information, and 3) expected outcomes and measures being put in place to gauge the efficacy of outreach efforts across diverse communities.

Results/Lessons Learned: Maryland public health officials have become ever more aware of the role that cultural competency plays in health communications and outreach.  This project, which has an impact beyond H1N1 education, has a significant upside pertaining to the design of targeted interventions for and encouragement of healthier behaviors among at risk communities.