Study shows media coverage on flu influences parents to vaccinate their children

Media coverage about influenza and the importance of flu shots influenced parents to vaccinate their children against the influenza virus, according to a study done by researchers and information officers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The study's findings, published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, looked at the 2003-2004 flu season and whether media attention affected pediatric flu vaccination rates nationwide.

Lead author Katherine Poehling, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics, was surprised to find how strong an effect media coverage really did have on parents, an impression shared by John Howser, media director, VUMC News and public Affairs.

"This study validates what we've long suspected, that news coverage of a serious public health issue really does raise public awareness and can have a positive impact on peoples' health."

Poehling predicted it would be a factor, "but I didn't realize how strongly the media coverage would influence the number of people who came to get their children vaccinated. The impact of media attention on influenza illness and deaths in children was very impressive."

Poehling and the other researchers wondered why some parents brought their children in for a flu vaccine, and why some did not.

The study's other authors include Kimberly Ma, a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student; William Schaffner, M.D., professor and chair of Preventive Medicine and Vanderbilt's principal spokesperson regarding influenza; and VUMC News and Public Affairs staff members John Howser, assistant director, Jerry Jones, information officer and Clinton Colmenares, senior information officer.

Researchers surveyed the parents of 256 children ages 6 months to 59 months (almost 5 years old) who brought their children to VUMC and an affiliated clinic during the summer of 2004.

They were asked if and when their child received a flu vaccine and what influenced

Contact: John Howser
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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