October 27, 2022

Study shows low influenza vaccination among Detroit children with asthma

A Wayne State University School of Medicine Master of Public Health graduate Sarah Parker, M.P.H., investigating a population of Detroit children with asthma for her public health practice capstone project has discovered that less than one-third of the children seen in the emergency department had received an influenza vaccine.

The study “Influenza vaccination coverage among an urban pediatric asthma population: Implications for population health,” published Oct. 21 in the open access journal PLOS ONE, found that less than one-third of children with asthma seen in pediatric emergency departments had received an influenza vaccine. Of those who were vaccinated, most vaccines were administered in a primary care setting and with no out-of-pocket costs. Children ages 5 to 11 years old had the lowest influenza vaccination rate. 

From left are Sarah Parker, M.P.H., and Julie Gleason-Comstock, Ph.D.

Influenza vaccination status was associated with race (African American children less likely to be vaccinated than non-Hispanic white children) and insurance type (children with no insurance or public insurance less likely to be vaccinated than children with private insurance). 

The vaccination rate varied by census tract across Detroit.

“Asthma is a common disease in children that places them at higher risk for complications from influenza, though little research has explored the vaccination rate in this population,” Parker said.

Parker received her degree in 2021, the same year her presentation of the work won the Graduate Student Research Award at the 2021 23rd annual Michigan Family Medicine Research Day.

The published study is the culmination of a completed Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice project, led by Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences Assistant Professor of Population Health Sciences Julie Gleason-Comstock, Ph.D., who is a Public Health researcher and educator, and master certified public health education specialist. The article’s co-authors are Amy DeLaroche, M.B.B.S., and Rajan Arora, M.D., physicians in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, at Children’s Hospital of Michigan; and Alex Hill, of the WSU Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

“Our M.P.H. student and faculty advisor publishing their research together is a wonderful accomplishment,” said Jinping Xu, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences. “It is especially impactful when the research relates to an important public health topic, such as vaccination, right in our city.”

Using geospatial analysis techniques, findings from this study highlighted Detroit census tracts with low vaccination coverage.

“The research results suggest the role of education and advocacy for influenza vaccination needs to be further explored in areas where children may lack traditional health care access at primary care offices,” Dr. Gleason-Comstock said. “Public health professionals with this information can develop initiatives to improve vaccination rates in these higher-risk communities.”

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