Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Survey Says...

One of the reasons the anti-vaccine movement was able to get such a foothold in the parenting culture of the last ten years or so is because the public health and medical establishments were, by their own admission, slow to respond. I understandy why. It is, on paper, hard to grasp the reasons why people find information from shadowy websites and Hollywood celebrities more credible than peer-reviewed science and information fromt ehir own pediatricians. The turh is that, as parents, we tend to put a lot of stock in the experiences of our peers, and rightly so. We’re the ones on the ground dealing with everything for the first time, armed with nothing but questions. Parents don’t want to take anyone’s word for it—they want information. Because the Internet has become our go-to source for information, without any attendant filter that might red-flag a site that offers nothing but misinformation, parents have been doing their “research” there.

I mention this because pediatricians and public health officials are starting to respond effectively to anti-vax messaging by turning to parents, and by reaching out to new parents, including the vaccine hesistant (a different crowd from the anti-vaxxers). Heck, I was a vaccine-hesitant parent. It’s okay to be hesitant. It is, however, critically important that we understand where the information we base our decisions on, and whether science factors in to your decision. One place you’ll find some much-needed outreach is at the Minnesota Department of Health’s Immunization website. This website is scheduled for a redesign, and the folks behind it are looking for responses from parents and members of the public at large about what changes might be useful, through an online survey. They are looking for feedback from anyone, whether the parent has been to their site before or not. The goal of the site is to become a place where parents and providers want to go for information—or wants to refer others to.

It’s rare that parents get a chance to tell public health officials how to best communicate with them, though I see it happening more often. So please consider taking a look at the website, then taking the short survey. Be candid. This is a great chance for your voice to make a difference.

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