“Many of these diseases are but an airplane ride away.”
School of Public Health graduate, Elaine Darling, MPH is the program manager for the West Virginia Immunization Network (WIN), a program of the Center for Rural Health Development, Inc. WIN held its 2013 WV Immunization Summit, which was coordinated in partnership with the KidStrong conference and held at the Charleston Civic Center in June.
Ms. Darling explained, “The main goal of the summit was to bring immunization partners together to discuss the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases and the impact of these diseases on our schools, communities, local businesses, and our families.”
SPH: How has your MPH degree helped you in your position as the program manager for the WV Immunization Network?
Ms. Darling: “The graduate program in public health gave me a strong foundation in identifying community health issues and determining methods of addressing these problems. It has taught me how to collect and analyze data, choose interventions to address public health problems, identify and communicate with stakeholders and partners, and evaluate interventions to ensure they are having the impact that we are seeking. These are skills that I use on a daily basis.”
SPH: What message would you like to send to West Virginians that you think will potentially impact their actions/outcomes for the better?
Ms. Darling: “Immunization is one of the greatest public health achievements. Because of it, we have seen the global eradication of smallpox, the eradication of polio in the U.S., and decreases ranging from about 90-99% for diseases such as rubella, pertussis, measles, and tetanus. Yet, now is not the time to become complacent. Many of these diseases are but an airplane ride away. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that immunization rates remain high in order to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases from returning in our state.”
SPH: I noticed there were many graduates of our MPH program and our former program in community medicine here at the KidStrong Conference. From your perspective, how can we better serve preventive care in West Virginia as a School of Public Health?
Ms. Darling: “I believe the best way to serve preventive care in WV is to continue to ensure that students are building a strong foundation, so that they are versatile and can apply their knowledge in any field of public health, in any location in WV.”
The 2013 Immunization Summit was held in conjunction with the KidStrong Conference and was attended by over 250 individuals representing school nurses, public and private health care providers, state health officials, coalition members and partners. The summit included nine sessions with topics such as HPV and cervical cancer, adolescent immunization, influenza, measles outbreaks, the WV Statewide Immunization Information Systems, the role of the pharmacist in immunization services, and working with media to communicate about immunization. Michelle Hannah, a life coach and author, also shared her story of her personal struggle with cervical cancer that resulted from HPV. She told her story with the hopes of educating others about the risks of HPV and the importance of preventing future cases of HPV and cervical cancer through vaccination.
For more information about the work of the West Virginia Immunization Network, visit http://wvruralhealth.org/WIN/.