(See GROUP PHOTOS Below)
North Georgia – The North Georgia Health District was honored with the 2018 Walt Orenstein Champions for Immunization Award at the Immunize Georgia Conference, recently held for the 25th year by the Georgia Department of Public Health in Atlanta. The conference is an occasion to give special recognition to public health immunization champions for their leadership and influence in getting Georgians immunized.
Immunization is the best protection against vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, polio, diphtheria and pertussis, just to name a few, and the Walt Orenstein Champions for Immunization Award honors individuals, agencies or coalitions that demonstrate excellence in providing immunization care.
The North Georgia Health District (district 1-2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, based in Dalton and comprised of Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties) received this award due to the high level of staff commitment to reducing barriers to immunizations through no- or low-cost vaccinations, community outreach events and flexible clinic hours to meet the needs of the community.
“We are committed to making it possible for everyone to have access to immunizations with quality care,” said Ashley Deverell, RN, BSN, district Immunization Coordinator. “From providing over 1200 no-cost flu vaccinations during the peak of the unusually active flu season this past winter to being a Vaccines For Children provider so we can ensure no one is turned away from receiving eligible vaccines based on ability to pay, our county health departments and Living Bridge Center/Ryan White Clinic work in conjunction with public and private partners to administer all applicable vaccines to as many people as possible.”
Immunizations have been made more accessible in North Georgia through public health in multiple ways.
County health departments stay open until late one day a week so people who work normal business hours can have access to services, including immunizations.
Health department staff go out into their communities to host vaccine clinics with businesses, schools, churches and organizations as well as conduct annual back-to-school clinics and drive-thru flu shot clinics.
They participate in various health fairs to promote immunizations and provide education about many other health issues and public health services.
The health departments have also developed relationships with fellow county agencies, including EMS offices and fire departments, to assist in updating vaccinations among personnel.
The Gilmer County Health Department’s International Travel Clinic in Ellijay administers comprehensive health services to travelers, including vaccines for many diseases that a traveler may encounter along the way such as polio, measles, typhoid and yellow fever. People all throughout North Georgia, and beyond, take advantage of these travel clinic services due to the quality of service and the ability to arrange prompt appointments.
The North Georgia Health District collaborates with local OB/GYN offices to offer low-cost prenatal care and routinely administers vaccines as part of these services. Plus, the Whitfield County Health Department offers many primary care services through their Medical Access Clinic, Women’s Clinic and Children’s Access Clinic to ensure that people who may not have easy access to care can receive health services, including all recommended vaccinations.
The health district’s commitment to reducing barriers to immunizations also includes a solid public information campaign that utilizes media and social media along with community partners and stakeholders to inform the public of their need to maintain immunizations and how, when and where to receive them.
Sherry Gregory, RN, district Infectious Disease Supervisor, said, “Our staff understands the critical role immunizations play in preventing disease and I am proud of their diligent efforts to make immunizations more accessible to everyone.”
For more information about the 2018 Walt Orenstein Champions for Immunization Awards and award recipients, go to http://www.immunizegeorgia.com/awards/.
Some of the public health staff from the North Georgia Health District who contribute to providing access to immunizations in our communities posed with state staff and Dr. Orenstein:
Standing, from left to right: Sheila Lovett (Georgia Dept of Public Health), Dr. Walt Orenstein (Emory Vaccine Center), Ashley Deverell (Dalton), Karen Penland (Dalton), Denise Bowman (Woodstock), Robin Coffey (Dalton), Doreen Andrew (Canton), Leyna Mashburn (Jasper) and Carol Padgett (Woodstock)
Kneeling: Cyndi Lopez (Canton)
Additional public health staff from the North Georgia Health District who contribute to providing access to immunizations in our communities:
Standing, from left to right: Elizabeth Thomas (Blue Ridge), Angie Callaway (Dalton), Marie Smith (Dalton), Robin Coffey (Dalton), Pam Baker (Woodstock), Pamela Graham (Canton), Denise Bowman (Woodstock), Karen Penland (Dalton), Doreen Andrew (Canton), Carol Padgett (Woodstock), Lauren Cedor (Woodstock), Melaina Hutcherson (Jasper) and Leighann Dover (Ellijay)
Kneeling, from left to right: Ashley Deverell (Dalton), Cyndi Lopez (Canton), Leyna Mashburn (Jasper) and Jennifer Vick (Ellijay)