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Features from the Field: Fairfax County

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Creating Linkages in Care and Enhancing Collaboration in Fairfax County

When it comes to fighting Zika in Fairfax County, Virginia, the health department is focusing on continuity of care, provider outreach, Zika virus testing, and patient education. To execute these activities, the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) has a number of resources to support their Zika response efforts, including epidemiologists, public health nurses, maternal child health home visiting nurses, mosquito biologists, a team of staff dedicated to community outreach, a collection of educational materials, and a CDC field assignee focused on increasing provider outreach and education.

Jessica Schultz, the field assignee placed through the CDC Zika Local Health Department Initiative, is improving provider engagement with FCHD. She educates providers on the latest CDC testing recommendations, provides prevention materials for patients, and emphasizes the importance of continuous monitoring for patients with Zika. “Jessica is working with clinicians, providing the most up-to-date CDC guidance, and enhancing communication channels, which will help to coordinate continuity of care,” shares Barbara Downes, a communicable disease epidemiologist at FCHD. “She’s also empowering people to talk to their providers by giving them tools and information.”

Features from the Field Fairfax

Jessica Schultz holding a Zika prevention poster at the entrance of the Fairfax County Health Department.

Education through Innovative Resources

Schultz is expanding the use of FCHD’s innovative tools, such as their “Monitoring You and Your Baby’s Health” card, CDC fact sheets, and FCHD children’s stories, by introducing these materials to providers and their patients. FCHD created the “Monitoring You and Your Baby’s Health” card for the Zika emergency response and works with clinicians to provide this to every pregnant woman with a positive Zika test result. The pocket-sized card contains checkpoints throughout the woman’s pregnancy and continues into the first 18 months of the baby’s life. This tool provides families with the guidance and information their provider may be referencing, and empowers the client by better understanding the surveillance process and next steps for care. By having a portable record of Zika care, a family is able to improve the continuity of care among obstetricians, pediatricians, and other providers. Schultz’s efforts have been instrumental in helping pregnant patients navigate provider care. The FCHD “Monitoring You and Your Baby’s Health” card is shared now as a successful model with other states and local health departments across the nation.

Other patient resources Schultz shares with providers include FCHD’s “Bug Time Stories” books, a series of short stories that teach kids about diseases carried by insects and how to avoid them. Zika prevention kits, which contain insect repellent, standing water treatment tabs, condoms, and communication materials, are also provided to obstetricians and gynecologist offices. Many of the resources Shultz uses are available on FCHD’s Zika resources webpage. A favorite among patients and providers is FCHD Environmental Health Specialist Andrew Lima, aka MC Bugg-Z’s, Zika 101 (Vector Control) rap video with information about Zika prevention.

Strengthening Relationships

By providing resources and support to healthcare providers, Schultz is enhancing connections between FCHD and its provider community. She is also strengthening connections between FCHD and the Virginia Department of Health to support reporting of Zika-related birth outcomes to the US Zika Pregnancy and Infant Registry. “This is important work that we’re doing and I want to make sure we’re providing the CDC registry with the best information we have on birth outcomes,” says Schultz. Improving coordination with the state to report surveillance data to CDC is critical to understanding the Zika emergency and its effects on moms and babies.

FCHD’s response to the Zika emergency strengthened internal relationships and collaboration. The enhanced coordination between communicable disease, maternal and child health, and vector control programs provided home visit nurses with the tools and resources to include Zika education in their visits. Downes emphasizes, “the maternal and child health program is a pivotal partner in this outbreak.”

FCHD and Schultz continue to share tools and information actively with providers and the community to encourage conversations about Zika-related care.

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