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Protect your family this winter with vaccinations

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Updated: 1/25/2013 10:35 am

(BPT) - Whether you are an adult or a child, viruses, bacteria and disease can strike at any time and are not something which can always be dismissed with bed rest and soup. Terrible viruses, such as measles, have vaccines available, but have seen a continued rise in cases over recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

'Adults may take on a little of the 'not me' idea where they feel it's not something they personally have to worry about because their body is strong enough,' says Dr. Sherly Abraham, residency program director of the Family Medicine Department at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. 'But the reality is many of these individuals will become sick over the fall and winter, which could have been prevented with a vaccination.'

To help minimize the number of vaccine-treatable conditions, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Foundation, through support from Pfizer Inc, presents awards to family medicine residency programs that have achieved increased immunization rates in their communities through creative solutions. The mission of the AAFP Foundation is to advance the values of Family Medicine by promoting humanitarian, educational, and scientific initiatives that improve the health of all people.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) Family Medicine residency program was recognized for its outstanding achievement in improving vaccination rates. The team, led by Dr. Abraham and Dr. Vasantha Kondamudi, chair of TBHC's department of family medicine, has been recognized the last two years for its outstanding achievement in improving vaccination rates among children (2011) and adults (2012). The program overcame a number of challenges - including vaccine availability, language barriers and community concern regarding vaccines - that contributed to low immunization rates.

Abraham noted one of the best things patients can do is ask questions about vaccines and treatments so each are fully understood. If parents are unsure about a vaccine for their child and choose not to immunize, that child may be extremely vulnerable to future diseases.

Once at TBHC, Abraham noted one of the most effective ways to accommodate patient schedules is giving 'work notes' at the end of each visit to alleviate the stress of missing work. In addition, Kondamudi emphasizes pre-visit coordination to further strengthen the patient/physician partnership.

'Prior to the patient's visit, our staff reviews the medical record and alert the physician to any needed services such as seasonal flu vaccination or childhood immunization,' Kondamudi says. 'This helps ensure that patients receive vaccinations in a timely manner.'

Their Family Medicine Center became recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home in 2010. As a Patient Centered Medical Home, the Family Medicine Center coordinates patient care over time and works to build an active partnership between patients and staff. These centers, according to Kondamudi, work to provide education and support for patients to take active role in their own health care.

To help ensure you and your family remain properly vaccinated this season, Abraham and Kondamudi recommend considering the following:

* During an upcoming medical visit, ask your doctor to check your immunization history and confirm all vaccines are up-to-date.

* If you have additional questions concerning a vaccine after speaking with the doctor, office support staff is readily available to help answer any questions.

* Ask for "work notes" when scheduling a medical visit during the week to help alleviate the stress of taking time off from work.

* Don't be afraid to call the office and speak with an assistant to confirm your immunizations. They can usually check your chart and let you know if an appointment is needed!

Founded as the borough's first voluntary hospital in 1845, TBHC's Community Family Health Centers bring the resources of the hospital directly into a variety of Brooklyn neighborhoods, offering a full range of primary and specialty care services for adults and children.

'Curable diseases cost the U.S. over $83 billion every year,' Abraham says. 'Adults may be afraid of missing a few hours of work for vaccinations, but the truth is they are putting themselves at risk to miss more substantial time by missing these appointments."

For more information, including a tip sheet of best practices from past winners, visit www.aafpfoundation.org/immunizationawards.

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