Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

2017-18 Flu Season: Lessons Learned

National Influenza Vaccination Disparities Partnership members focused a lot of energy on communications and public education during the peak of the 2017-18 flu season. Higher than average flu rates and severity of flu complications coupled with questions about the effectiveness of this season’s flu vaccine made public outreach a high priority in preventing and treating flu.

“There were a lot of lessons to be learned about how we can inform and educate people about the importance of flu prevention,” said Sharon Ricks, Region IV Health Administrator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

With a severe season and discussions about flu vaccine effectiveness consistently in the news, more effort needed to be made to correct misinformation and educate people about the importance of flu vaccination no matter what, Ricks said.

She added that it’s also important to give additional flu prevention information that includes prominent messaging about proper hygiene practices and staying home when sick. In addition, Ricks urged flu communicators to put more effort into social media—especially on leveraging social media accounts of trusted messengers.

Ricks added that more emphasis should be placed on the message that vaccination is important to protect yourself, but it also protects loved ones. This message needs to be hammered home by health care workers serving people with high-risk conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) also focused on ramping up communications about flu vaccination.

NJDOH Public Health Educator Jennifer Smith said the department translated flu education materials into 12 different languages, invested in more advertising, and sent key staff to visit hospitals and talk to media about how to prevent flu.

The department also boosted its social media efforts with increased posts, Facebook Live events, and the hashtag #FightTheFluNJ. The department also enhanced their online flu communication resources.

Messages later in the flu season focused on vaccination, but also emphasized avoiding sick people, staying home when you are sick, and taking antivirals if prescribed by a doctor.


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