Health unit urges health workers to get flu shots; makes climate change priority; looks for new accreditation service
BARRIE - The Simcoe Muskoka board of health was briefed at its October board meeting on the health unit’s Influenza Immunization Challenge, which aims to improve the flu immunization rates in health care workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Dr. Lisa Simon, associate medical officer of health for the health unit, told the board that while the spread of the flu to patients in health care settings is linked to low immunization rates among health care workers, influenza immunization rates among health care workers remains an ongoing issue, says a news release from the SMDHU.
In response, for the past three years the health unit has led the Influenza Immunization Challenge (IIC), in collaboration with the North Simcoe Muskoka Infection Control Network. The challenge, which was first launched for Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH), sets an ultimate goal of bringing seasonal flu immunization rates in staff up to a gold standard of 90% or higher. Since the challenge was launched the average staff vaccination rate among LTCH staff has continued to increase in Simcoe Muskoka above the provincial average. The IIC officially began for hospitals a year later and rates have since been steadily increasing.
Climate change a priority public health issue
The health unit has identified climate change as a priority public health issue for the organization, Dr. Charles Gardner told the board of health. Identifying and addressing priority public health issues that require a comprehensive agency response is a strategic goal of health unit. As well, the Ontario Public Health Standards require that health units work with community partners in developing policies and raising public awareness of the health risks associated with extreme weather. Climate change adaptation and mitigation are key public health issues and health units can play important roles in activities related to both in the community. The issue is highlighted in the health unit’s forthcoming 2013 annual report to the community.
Health unit exploring accreditation options
SMDHU staff is reviewing options for accreditation following the ending of the Ontario Council of Community Health Accreditation (OCCHA), which had been the primary accrediting body for public health in Ontario for more than 32 years. While the accreditation of public health units in Ontario is voluntary, accreditation has served this health unit well in the pursuit of continuous quality improvement. In the meantime, the health unit will continue to address areas for development identified by the most recent 2010 accreditation survey.
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