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Emory Lecture Series Highlights DPH Immunization Efforts

February 21, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have named immunization as one of the greatest public health achievements of all time. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has also focused on vaccination as one of its top priorities. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH’s director of health protection, and Georgia Immunization Director Steve Mitchell will discuss the importance of protecting Georgians through vaccination at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health on Tues., Feb. 25.

The lecture is the third of the five-part Models of Excellence lecture series focusing on some of Georgia’s biggest health priorities. Mitchell said vaccinations have a tremendous impact on health in the state and around the world.

“As public health professionals we must remain vigilant in order to sustain and improve the health of our population through immunization,” Mitchell said.

Anne Schuchat, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Services, will join O’Neal and Mitchell to describe how vaccinations impact disease in the U.S.

DPH’s immunization program has been instrumental in ensuring that vaccine-preventable disease levels in Georgia are at or near record lows. Most infants and toddlers have received all recommended vaccines by age 2, Mitchell said. In 2012, 93.6 percent of those children were up to date on their immunizations. But many adolescents and adults are under-immunized.

“They are missing opportunities to protect themselves against diseases like hepatitis B, influenza and meningitis. We must continue our efforts to protect the population of Georgia,” Mitchell said.

In the coming year, DPH will focus those efforts on increasing flu vaccination in schoolchildren, promoting the importance of HPV vaccination in adolescents and a new mandate requiring seventh graders to get their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) and meningococcal vaccinations beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

DPH and the Emory Public Health Training Center have partnered to offer the Models of Excellence lecture series, which has been highlighting Georgia’s key health priorities since December. Kathleen Miner, Ph.D., the center’s principal investigator, said the series is an opportunity to highlight priorities and challenges in Georgia for those currently in or becoming part of Georgia’s public health workforce.

“The strength of the lecture series comes from the partnership of academic and practice professionals sharing their perspectives on how to improve the health of Georgians,” she said.

In the first lecture, DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., gave an overview of Georgia's health status and DPH's health priorities. She shared examples of public and private partnerships as well as some best practices in addressing health issues, such as obesity. The second lecture focused on obesity, including efforts to fight the condition through Georgia SHAPE, Gov. Nathan Deal’s childhood obesity initiative.

After Tuesday’s lecture on immunization, Jean O’Connor, Dr.PH., DPH’s director of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and Tim McAfee, M.D., director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, will discuss tobacco use in the state. In the final lecture, Francesca Lopez, program manager of the Georgia Asthma Control Program at DPH, and Paul Garbe, D.V.M., chief of the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch at CDC, will discuss the impact of asthma on Georgians.

For more information about the Models of Excellence lecture series, to register for an event or view archived webcasts of previous lectures, visit the Emory Public Health Training Center’s website.

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