What can the elderly do to protect themselves from the flu in addition to getting a flu vaccination

Published on Jun 1, 2004in American Journal of Public Health6.464
· DOI :10.2105/AJPH.94.6.905
Sohini Sengupta14
Estimated H-index: 14
Ronald P. Strauss45
Estimated H-index: 45
+ 1 AuthorsAngela D. Thrasher8
Estimated H-index: 8
In their article “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Influenza Vaccination Coverage,” Egede and Zheng highlighted the fact that, even though flu vaccine use has improved over time, racial/ethnic inequalities continue to persist. Blacks are less likely than Whites to be vaccinated, particularly in the age group 65 years and older.1 Furthermore, the authors emphasized greater patient–provider communication to improve vaccination rates among Black Americans, as physicians’ recommendations can influence flu vaccine use. Since we have not yet seen an end to this year’s flu epidemic, and the flu vaccine is in short supply and may not be as effective as in previous years,2 we are left to ponder additional strategies for protecting high-risk populations. In a pilot qualitative study we conducted in Durham, NC, we asked a sample of 28 elderly Black Americans what other types of flu-preventive health behaviors they practice in addition to, or in lieu of, getting vaccinated. Seventeen flu prevention behaviors were identified, and they can be collapsed into 3 main categories. The first category focuses on keeping the body and immune system healthy, such as eating properly (n = 19), drinking fluids (n = 11), taking vitamins such as vitamin C (n = 7), exercising (n = 6), taking home remedies such as cod liver oil (n = 4), and getting plenty of rest (n = 3). The second category reflects various methods to “keep clean,” such as washing hands (n = 3), using disinfectants to sterilize hands or surface areas (n = 3), and having antibacterial wipes handy (n = 2). The last category focuses on avoiding perceived high-risk contexts for getting the flu, such as staying indoors in the winter (n = 15), avoiding sick people (n = 9), and staying away from crowds (n = 2). Egede and Zheng concluded with the need to implement “effective strategies to increase vacination rates” in health care settings.1 While we support such efforts, we feel that increasing vaccination rates is only a piece of the puzzle and that any targeted intervention developed for elderly African Americans would need to acknowledge the range of flu-preventive behaviors practiced as complementary to getting an annual flu vaccination.
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#1Leonard E. Egede (MUSC: Medical University of South Carolina)H-Index: 67
#2Deyi ZhengH-Index: 7
Objectives. This study identified racial/ethnic disparities in influenza vaccination in high risk adults. Methods. We analyzed data on influenza vaccination in 7655 adults with high-risk conditions, using data from the 1999 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). We stratified data by age and used multiple logistic regression to adjust for gender, education, income, employment, and health care access. Results. After control for covariates, White patients with diabetes, chronic heart conditions,...
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