Study shows reminders for immunizations from state and local health services effective

Timely reminders by state or local health departments can serve to increase immunization rates among preschool children more than those from primary care providers.

A study conducted by the Children's Outcomes Research Program at Children's Hospital Colorado demonstrated the importance of developing partnerships between primary care practices and state and local health departments, according to

"Immunizations provide us with the opportunity to prevent most of the diseases that killed so many children in the past," Dr. Allison Kempe, the CORC director and lead author of the study, said, reports. "But the job of making sure all children receive immunizations in a timely manner is complicated and requires systems to identify who is not up-to-date and to generate reminder letters, postcards or telephone messages.

"Many primary care providers don't have such systems in place and don't have the time or staff to conduct recall for immunizations at their practices. Our study shows that practices and public health departments working together will be much more successful in recalling children who need vaccinations."

Current national data shows that only 16 percent of providers are issuing reminders for immunizations because of the difficulty and cost in doing so.

"If reminder or recall messages can be generated for entire populations within a county by the state and county health departments, this unburdens the primary care practice and is much less expensive overall," Kempe said, reports. "It also has the advantage of reaching children who do not have a usual source of primary care. Our data from surveys of both parents and providers suggest that there is strong support for this approach."

The study was published in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.