Background: According to the Healthy People 2010 initiative, adult vaccination rates remain low (goal: 80%, observed: 25%) despite the effectiveness of vaccines for preventing life-threatening diseases. The current study examines the impact of a medical student-led vaccination education program in a low-income, high-risk community.
Setting: Free Community Health Clinic (CHC) in Chicago
Population: A high risk (>50% diabetic), ethnically diverse (53% Latino, 34% Caucasian of whom 22% are Polish immigrants, 7% African American, 6% other) patient population without health insurance and with income below 250% of the Federal Poverty Line.
Project Description: Beginning in July 2009, students from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine participated in weekly visits to CHC. Following current CDC guidlines, students gave waiting room presentations on adult vaccinations in the target languages of the clinic population: English, Spanish and Polish. Students initiated one-on-one counseling with interested patients to make personalized lists of recommended vaccines to discuss with their physicians. All interactions were supervised by faculty.
Results/Lessons Learned: From 2009 to 2011, 280 patients were counseled during 19 educational sessions between July and December each year. Pneumococcal vaccination rates increased by 219% (from 73 to 233) and tetanus vaccination rates increased by 180% (from 123 to 344). In 2010, 150 patients received one-on one counseling with 66 (44%) of these obtaining a vaccination in the subsequent 12 months. Our data show that students, under faculty guidance, were able to develop a program that increased vaccination rates at CHC. The major limitation of the program was patient saturation, which can be alleviated by expanding the program to bimonthly sessions on varying days of the week, year-round. Ultimately, patient-centered waiting room education can be an inexpensive and effective means of increasing vaccination rates.