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NKY Nurse Educator Receives Federal Recognition

Christina Rust, Maternal Child Health Education Specialist with St. Elizabeth Healthcare, has been named CDC Childhood Immunization Champion for her outstanding efforts to promote childhood immunization in Northern Kentucky. In particular, Rust is being recognized for her efforts to increase whooping cough vaccination rates among mothers and families delivering at St. Elizabeth through the hospital’s cocooning project.

“Newborn babies are at highest risk from complications of whooping cough,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health with the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “The cocooning project at St. Elizabeth, which provides vaccine to family members and caregivers of Northern Kentucky infants, helps reduce the risk of infection in infants until they are old enough to receive the vaccine itself. Chris Rust worked with both St. Elizabeth and local public health immunization program staff to create this program, implement it, and secure funding so individuals can receive the vaccine free of charge. Since the program began in March of 2011, more than 20,000 mothers and family members have been vaccinated through St. Elizabeth.”

In addition to the hospital’s cocooning program, Rust worked to ensure that local obstetricians follow the latest recommendations for whooping cough immunization during pregnancy, providing additional protection to infants.

“Rust’s efforts are especially important right now,” said Saddler. “Northern Kentucky has been dealing with an outbreak of whooping cough since November, with more than 200 cases reported. Immunizing those who will be around infants is a key strategy to ensure that the outbreak does not spread in this vulnerable population.”

Each year during National Infant Immunization Week, CDC and the CDC Foundation honor health professionals and community leaders from around the country with the CDC Childhood Immunization Champion awards. These awards acknowledge the outstanding efforts of those individuals who strive to ensure that children in their communities are fully immunized against 14 preventable diseases before the age of 2.

“Ensuring that every child is vaccinated on schedule is critical to protecting our children, schools, and communities from outbreaks of serious diseases,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician at CDC and the Executive Secretary of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. “We could not achieve our goal of protecting children without those committed individuals who promote immunizations at the state and local levels.

CDC Childhood Immunization Champions were selected from a pool of health professionals, coalition members, community advocates, and other immunization leaders. State Immunization Programs coordinated the nomination process and submitted nominees to CDC. One winner was selected in each participating state and the District of Columbia.

For profiles of other CDC Childhood Immunization Champion award winners, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niiw/champions/index.html.

- Staff report/Photo: Christina Rust (provided)