Patt Sweeney Receives Grant to Study Influenza Immunization Regulations

Patricia M. Sweeney, JD, MPH, RN, associate director for law and policy in the Center for Public Health Practice and assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management was awarded one of 13 new grants by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program. The grants are for studies of the public health impacts of laws and regulations. Sweeney’s project, “The Impact of State Law and Institutional Policy upon Heath Care Worker Influenza Immunization Rates,” was funded for $450,000 for 30 months and will be co-investigated by Richard Zimmerman, MD, MPH, professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the Pitt School of Medicine. Altogether, the 13 grants totaled $3.4 million.

In the United States, vaccinations against certain diseases are accepted as an important step in leading a healthy life and helping to keep other people from getting sick. It is not unusual to be required to show proof that you have had certain vaccinations before you are allowed to register for school or college, for example. But these common requirements for vaccination do not always extend to influenza, even for hospital workers who are at the highest risk of exposure to the flu virus and who are likely to come into contact with people who are at a high risk of serious health complications if they were to become infected with the flu virus. Sweeney’s study will take a state-by-state inventory of laws that regulate influenza immunization among people who work in hospitals. Investigators will also review policies that individual hospitals and health systems might have to require their employees to receive a flu vaccination. The study will then match these findings with data on rates of vaccination among hospital workers to determine what, if any, affect such laws and policies have on vaccination rates.

PHLR is funded by RWJF as a part of its public health strategy aimed at ensuring that all Americans have quality public health services and policies that protect, promote and preserve their health, regardless of who they are or where they live.

“The results of these studies are helping us build the evidence that policy-makers can use to understand how laws and regulations affect public health—not just laws aimed at specific public health issues. Zoning laws, for example, affect opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy foods through farmers’ markets and grocery stores, which ultimately affect obesity rates,” said Michelle Larkin, JD, MS, RN, director of the public health team at RWJF. For a description of the other funded studies, click here.


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