Kimberly Scott, MPH
September 26, 2018
Kimberly Scott, MPH
September 26, 2018
Annually, public health officials prepare for the upcoming influenza (flu) season and emphasize the importance of receiving the flu vaccine. To “lead by example,” NACCHO’s Employee Wellness and Flu Vaccination Initiative aims to promote a culture of total wellness among employees with a particular emphasis on preparing employees for the upcoming flu season.
Flu poses an annual threat to the health of individuals and communities across the nation. Flu is indiscriminate in where it circulates and who it affects, and people are often exposed during life’s daily routines. As the first and most important preventative measure, medical and public health officials strongly emphasize the importance of yearly and timely flu vaccination.
Though the vaccine is generally available throughout the flu season, vaccination rates have been less than optimal, and consistently lowest among “working-age” adults 65 years and younger. Data from the early 2017-2018 flu season indicate that vaccination coverage for adults 18-64 years was 33.9% as compared to 38.8% in children 6 months–17 years and 56.6% in adults 65 and older. To further quantify the burden of flu in adults, research estimates that influenza costs the U.S. almost $10.4 billion in direct costs for adult hospitalization and outpatient visits and results in an estimated $16.3 billion in lost earnings. Additionally, this specific segment of the adult population often cite lack of education about flu, lack of a convenient time or opportunity, and lack of confidence as primary reasons for not receiving the flu vaccine.
As working-age adults often interact with a multitude of individuals in various settings, they may not only be at increased risk of exposure to the virus, but also are at increased risk of transmitting the flu to others, including individuals at highest risk of severe illness. It is important that public health messaging and initiatives be strategically tailored to the working-age adult population to ensure that they receive information about the dangers of flu and are offered convenient opportunities to receive the flu vaccination.
As NACCHO advocates for healthy communities across the nation, NACCHO leadership recognized that it is important that the organization also advocate for the health and wellness of its own community of employees. Recognizing the burden of flu and the overall need to promote wellness among working-age adults, NACCHO’s Immunization Program and Human Resources Department partnered to host the NACCHO Employee Wellness and Flu Vaccination Initiative.
During the 2017 National Influenza Vaccination Week, the teams encouraged all staff to attend a light breakfast gathering where they had the opportunity to learn more about the flu and the 2017–2018 flu season, as well as receive additional information about local providers offering the flu vaccine. Building upon last year’s momentum, the Immunization Program and Human Resources teams have partnered again this year to expand the focus and services offered during this event.
Overall, the NACCHO Employee Wellness and Flu Vaccination Initiative has reaffirmed and personalized for employees the organization’s true commitment to health and wellness. Employees valued the opportunity to engage in robust discussions about the importance of addressing employee health and greatly appreciated the opportunity to address flu vaccination questions and concerns with NACCHO’s Immunization Program staff. Though no metrics regarding the number of employees that received the flu vaccine or the number of employee absences due to flu/flu-like illness were collected during the first year event, the event was still rendered an overall success in that all employees received timely, convenient messaging about the importance of the flu vaccine in preventing illness.
Further, conducting this employer-sponsored health initiative has been an important stepping stone in NACCHO’s efforts to “lead by example” in fostering a healthy workforce and workplace environment, especially in preparation for and during flu season. The success of last year’s event has prompted leadership to support hosting the event again this year with expanded features, activities and services. On October 3, 2018, through a partnership with CareFirst, NACCHO will host the 2018 NACCHO Employee Wellness and Flu Vaccination Initiative to offer employees free health screenings, information about the flu, and a convenient opportunity to receive their on-site flu vaccination. More than 45 NACCHO employees have indicated their intent to participate in the wellness screenings and receive an on-site flu vaccination.
The Lessons Learned
An employer-sponsored workplace influenza vaccination campaign poses benefits to all involved, including the participating employees and organization. Employers can play an important role in preventing the flu, helping to protect employees’ health, and reducing losses in revenue. Employees spend a substantial amount of time at their place of work, and research has documented contact patterns in workplaces that are conducive to the spread of flu. Encouraging employees to receive the flu vaccine is the first step in preventing flu-induced absenteeism and loss of work productivity, and fostering a healthy work environment. Though the 2017 event was successful in communicating the importance of employee health and promoting flu vaccination, it was very evident that the event was missing a key aspect - the opportunity for employees to receive convenient, on-site flu vaccinations during work hours. Several employees indicated that convenience and time constraints posed significant obstacles to them either receiving the vaccine or delaying receipt until later in the season. In efforts to improve the event and potentially employee health outcomes, the 2018 NACCHO Employee Wellness and Flu Vaccination Initiative will occur earlier in the season to ensure that employees are well-prepared for the coming flu season!
If you or your employees are interested in learning more about how flu can affect the workplace or hosting an on-site, employer-sponsored, flu vaccination initiative, access the following resources for helpful tips and recommendations: