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Why Students in a Top NJ College Health Program Are Improving Public Vaccine Efforts

Students in the School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) have partnered with the New Jersey Public Health Association to understand why vulnerable demographics are hesitant to get vaccinated and how to improve New Jersey’s state messages to these populations.

 

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Drawing upon data from New Jersey state, county, and city departments, we found little outreach to vulnerable populations..."

EWING, NJ May 12, 2021 – The U.S. administered over 200 million COVID-19 vaccines in President Biden’s first 100 days in office. However, vaccination rates are now falling by disturbing measures, from a high of 3.38 million to 2.86 million people vaccinated per day. Emboldened by the federal government pausing Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in April, vaccine hesitancy remains a national crisis. Students in the School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) have partnered with the New Jersey Public Health Association to understand why vulnerable demographics are hesitant to get vaccinated and how to improve New Jersey’s state messages to these populations.

TCNJ public health major, Arianna Ceballos, Class of 2022, is spearheading this effort. “Being Hispanic, I see hesitancy firsthand. There is a lot of unreliable information circulating, and I’m driven to take an active role in countering this misinformation”, she says. As part of her capstone project, a cumulative experiential learning assignment, Ceballos is working with the New Jersey Public Health Association to organize virtual focus groups to monitor vaccine hesitancy in vulnerable demographics, including African Americans and Latinx communities. The study will continue through June, to be presented and published over the summer.

Associate Professor and Public Health Chair, Dr. Brenda Seals, leverages rich health communication experiences and institutional relationships to advise the initiative. “The current messages articulated by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and state disclaimers to encourage vaccination are usually limited to fact lists,” explains Seals. “Drawing upon data from New Jersey state, county and city departments, we found little outreach to vulnerable populations to include them in larger vaccination conversations. We are honored to collaborate with the New Jersey Public Health Association to directly address vaccine hesitancy and inform public policy.” Dr. Brenda Seals is a former CDC REACH Grant Co-Investigator, and has worked with Native American and African American populations for studies of cancer, HIV, violence and injury, mental health and health disparities.

Founded in 1875, the New Jersey Public Health Association is the oldest public health organization in the U.S. Its mission is to strengthen, advocate and advance public health in New Jersey.

Dean of TCNJ’s School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science Carole Kenner remarks, “Our students and faculty members embrace the teacher-scholar model and include students in faculty research and scholarship. We at the School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science pride ourselves on taking students seriously; empowering them to contribute their scholarship to projects beyond campus borders.”

TCNJ’s School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science educates aspiring health professionals to become future leaders across the healthcare industry. Faculty work closely with local healthcare partners to provide students with applicative skills and foundational knowledge. The nationally acclaimed school is dedicated to preparing individuals—through programs in nursing, public health, exercise science, and physical education teaching—for the many rewards of guiding people, communities, and populations toward improved health outcomes.

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