WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Lung Association released its latest health disparity report today, titled "Missed Opportunities: Influenza and Pneumonia Vaccination in Older Adults," in an effort to eliminate disparities in influenza and pneumonia vaccination rates among older Americans. The Lung Association is focusing on this disparity because despite the ready availability of safe and effective vaccines, millions of people over 65-years-old are not being vaccinated, especially older African Americans and Hispanics, who are at increased risk from these preventable, yet deadly, respiratory diseases.
Influenza is responsible for an average of 226,000 hospitalizations and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths annually. Nearly 90 percent of deaths occur among people 65-years of age and older. Studies show that the flu shot can be up to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations for both influenza and pneumonia in those over 65.
"The American Lung Association appreciates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' attention to this important subject with its recognition of today as National Influenza Vaccination Week's Older Adults Vaccination Day," said Jim Gooden, National Volunteer Chair of the American Lung Association. "Working together, we can ensure that more and more seniors get vaccinated, especially African Americans and Hispanics over age 65, who are unfortunately receiving vaccinations at significantly lower rates than whites."
In fact, African Americans and Hispanics are 28 percent and 25 percent less likely than whites to receive an influenza vaccination. The disparity is even more prominent for pneumonia vaccinations as African Americans and Hispanics are 37 percent and 47 percent less likely to receive the vaccine than whites. Unfortunately, these groups are disproportionately at risk of having preexisting conditions such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes that further increases the risk of severe illness and death from influenza and pneumonia.
More alarming is that these disparities exist despite older adults of all racial and ethnic groups accessing healthcare at roughly the same rate. Somehow, in healthcare settings, many older adults are not getting vaccinated. The core of the problem is that some patients are not asking to be vaccinated, and some doctors are not recommending it when seeing patients.
It has been suggested that if older African Americans and Hispanics achieved immunization rates equal to that of whites, roughly 25 percent of flu-related deaths among these groups could be prevented every year.
"This is a ticking time bomb. As baby boomers age, and the nation's elderly population rises, the toll of influenza and pneumonia will likely increase," said Gooden continued. "It's important that we address this health disparity now to prevent serious illness and save lives in the future."
The Lung Association's report highlights some possible reasons behind this disparity and proposes a series of public health and policy solutions to bring parity to overall vaccinations rates among older Americans. These reasons are multiple, complex and interrelated and include internal barriers within healthcare systems, provider beliefs and behaviors, patient knowledge awareness and personal beliefs, along with affordability and access to care.
The American Lung Association also calls on federal and state government agencies, healthcare systems and individual providers and practices to take the following actions to close the gap of missed vaccination opportunities:
For a copy of the report, please visit www.lungusa.org/vaccination-disparities
The Lung Association is committed to preventing lung disease and preventing lung health and this report is the third in a series that attempt to address the needs of those populations that are disproportionately affected by lung disease.
About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungUSA.org.
|SOURCE American Lung Association|
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