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Features from the Field: Orange County

Bridging Gaps through Provider Outreach and Education in Orange County

Once known as “Mosquito County,” Orange County is now a hub for health care in central Florida. At the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (FDOH-Orange), public health professionals are working with hospitals, community organizations and other stakeholders to spread awareness about Zika prevention, testing and services.

Features from the Field Orange County

AnnMarie Chase providing outreach at the March of Dimes Walk

Messages Tailored to Target Audiences

As the Zika outbreak continues, the need for providers to inform their patients about the risks of Zika remains constant. AnnMarie Chase, a field assignee through the CDC Zika Local Health Department Initiative, is helping to increase clinical outreach and education to providers in Orange County. As an experienced nurse from this community, Chase is intimately familiar with the factors involved in patients’ health and uses that knowledge to tailor her messages so they will resonate with her target audiences—clinicians and community members.

During provider visits, she reiterates the importance of following Zika testing guidelines with physicians and their staff. She explains that most of the concerns she hears from providers can be addressed through education and awareness of the state’s policies and recommendations. For example, some providers are not aware that Zika testing in Florida is covered by Medicaid, or that county health departments offer free Zika testing for pregnant women. Chase shares resources and tools to facilitate the Medicaid reimbursement process, which encourages providers to offer testing to pregnant women who need it.

Constant and Consistent Community Outreach

Chase also presents at health fairs, community health centers, and fundraising walks to reach different audiences with vital Zika messages. She has presented at 29 outreach events providing more than 200 Zika prevention toolkits that include insect repellent, educational materials about Zika transmission and prevention, and information on who should be tested. “I want everyone to know that we’re here… that there is always someone at the health department who is available to take the call,” she says. Chase and other personnel trained on Zika staff an after-hours call line where they answer questions about Zika from community residents.

Chase also works with local partners to develop outreach events for the community. On April 22, 2017, FDOH-Orange hosted an interactive community event called “Flight to Zika Prevention Land” with the Orlando Police Department, Healthy Start, and other DOH departments. At this event, registered families and other community members received informative handouts on Zika education, prevention, transmission, and testing. FDOH-Orange also offered free pregnancy testing during the event and encouraged pregnant women to seek early prenatal care.

Community Connections

Chase works with several hospitals in Orange County, one of which is the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, which has one of the nation’s largest and most successful neonatal intensive care units and averages 14,000 births a year. Women come to Orange County from around the world to receive the highest level of care during their pregnancies and the influx of pregnant women and infants to the area presents an opportunity for Chase to deliver Zika awareness information to these patients and the providers who care for them. Her community knowledge allows her to leverage existing relationships within the hospital system to enhance communication and engagement between clinicians providing care for families affected by Zika and help FDOH-Orange link patients to the right services.

“AnnMarie is crucial to partnering with hospitals,” says Karen McKenzie, Nurse Program Specialist with FDOH-Orange. “We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what we have without AnnMarie.” Chase’s extensive knowledge of the Orlando Health network and FDOH enables her to effectively navigate through the complexities of each system to the benefit of both.

By building connections between community organizations in Orange County, Chase’s work is not only impactful in the Zika response but also helps increase the capacity to prepare for the next emerging threat to moms and babies. “The CDC Zika Local Health Department Initiative is bolstering preparedness for any emerging infectious disease, no matter what it is,” shared Alvina Chu, Epidemiology Program Manager with FDOH-Orange. “We recognize that it is inevitable that outbreaks happen and we want to be prepared for it.”

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