“Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly – especially in infants and young children” (CDC, For Parents: Vaccines for Children, 2016). Due to the importance of immunizations in children’s health and physical development, today we will explore this topic by referencing the latest research on immunization and the benefits of well-child visits. We’ll put a spotlight on The Growing Great Kids Curriculum tools and resources around this topic and discuss how to support parents to be proactive and responsive regarding their children’s health. We’ll wrap up today’s discussion with additional online resources that you may want to pass on to your families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Survey found that the 2015 immunization rates for children aged 19-35 months sustained high coverage in the United States. More than 90% of children by age 2 years were up to date with vaccination against polio, hepatitis b; measles, mumps; rubella; and varicella. There were no significant coverage rate changes between 2014 and 2015 (CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2016). Health care professionals feel that immunizations are one of the most effective health prevention strategies discovered in our society during the last century. Other research indicates that the average life expectancy of US citizens increased by 30 years, primarily due to improvements in sanitation and development of vaccines and antimicrobial agents (Abramson and Pickering, 2002). National efforts and initiatives on vaccine education have resulted in the elimination of smallpox and polio from the United States. It has also increased awareness around prevention of other serious diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis b, measles, mumps, and rubella. This has resulted in lower hospitalizations and deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases, saving society more than $5 for each dollar spent on most of the vaccines that are recommended for children in the United States (Abramson and Pickering, 2002).
There is also some interesting information regarding immunization statistics provided by the Canadian Government. In 2013, the Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey (cNICS) reported that most Canadian children, at age two, are immunized against vaccine preventable diseases including Polio 91%, DPT 77%, Hib 72%, MMR 89%, Varicella 73%, Meningococcal C 89%, and Pneumococcal 79%. The 2013 cNICS incorporated questions on parental knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to vaccines and vaccination. This information allows the Canadian Government to identify trends over time in attitudes that may influence parental decisions regarding vaccination. In 2013, the cNICS showed that 95% of parents believed that childhood vaccines are safe and 97% thought that vaccines are effective for keeping children’s health (Government of Canada, 2013).
Part of keeping children healthy is making sure that they are examined regularly by their Health Care Provider. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), parents know who they should go to when their child is sick, but pediatrician visits are just as important for healthy children. The focus during these visits should be on developmental milestones, immunizations, physical examinations, nutrition, safety, the child’s and family’s emotional well-being, general health education, and teaching about injury prevention (HealthyChildren.org, 2015). To support parents to maximize their well-child visits, the AAP developed age appropriate pre-visit questionnaires. These tools are designed to allow parents to prepare for asking questions and discussing concerns related to the child’s health. They also help parents to plan for well-child visits based on the timing of recommended immunizations.
Let’s take a few minutes now to discuss how the Growing Great Kids Curriculum supports practices related to immunizations, reaching out to health care services, regular monitoring of developmental milestones, and other related topics. For every three months of a child’s development, GGK incorporates a Module on Basic Care. Just to highlight a sample of topics:
- 0-3 months: When Baby is Sick or Needs Health Care; Signs of Illness
- 4-6 months: Keeping Your Baby Healthy; Well Baby Care and Immunization
- 7-9 months: Changing Needs for Home Safety
- 10-12 months: Keeping Your Baby Healthy; Well Baby Care and Immunization; Preventing Animal-Related Illnesses
- 13-15 months: Routine and Responsive Health Care
- 19-21 months: Checking in on Body Builders
- 25-30 months: Growing Healthy Kids
Another GGK essential tool is the Body Builders Daily Do, a parenting skill set designed to support excellent physical development and health in children. Through the Home Visitor’s use of GGK, parents are supported as they practice this Daily Do and reinforce the four main components of physical development and health: good nutrition, responsive and preventive health care, daily exercise, and predictable and safe environments.
One of the most important features of the GGK Curriculum is that all Conversation Guides are designed to offer anticipatory guidance about health, safety, and nutrition. This approach allows parents to engage in reflective and proactive practices that allow them to be more prepared for every stage of their baby’s development--- including knowing when it’s time for immunizations and well-child visits.
While immunizations are considered one of the major public health achievements of the 20th century, there are still some challenges to overcome in this arena. Some of these challenges include increased educational awareness regarding various vaccine safety concerns, the increased costs of vaccines, and shortages of vaccine supply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly provides updates on these areas along with multiple tools and resources.
The following includes a list of tools provided by the CDC, check them out and pass them on to your families at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines
- Immunization Schedules for Infants and Children (English and Spanish)
- Immunization and Developmental Milestones
- Interactive Make Your Immunization Schedule for Your Child
- Immunization Tracker
- Videos and Useful Lists
- Infographics, Handouts, and Booklets
- Parents’ Guide to Childhood Immunization Guide
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides the following online resources and tips, (HealthyChildren.org, 2015):
- Ask your healthcare provider. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
- Call your local or state health department.
- Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
The US Centers for Disease Control (2016). National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases: For Parents: Vaccines for Children. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/index.html
Government of Canada (2013). Vaccine coverage in Canadian Children: Highlights from the 2013 childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/vaccine-coverage-canadian-children-highlights-2013-childhood-nation
The US Centers for Disease Control (2016). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19-35 Months- United States, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6539a4.htm?s_cid=mm6539a4_w
Abramson, J.S. MD, Pickering, L.K. MD (2002). US Immunization Policy. Published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Issue Volume 287(4) January 23/30, 2002 pp 505-509.
HealthyChildren.org (2015). Family Life: AAP Schedule of Well-Child Care Visits. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/health-management/Pages/Well-Child-Care-A-Check-Up-for-Success.aspx