Malcolm Gladwell theory employed in vaccine distribution

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Maps, guides, and arrows formed the basis of the University of Chicago pandemic flu vaccination distribution plan in April 2009. The plan driving the distribution was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference". University public health planners used strategies from the bestselling book to maximize seasonal influenza vaccine distribution information.

Using Gladwell's "the power of context" approach, high student traffic areas on the Chicago campus were designated as vaccination sites and highlighted with maps and arrows to direct students to these areas. Planners attributed increased seasonal flu vaccine uptake to the use of this approach in its communication strategy at the university over the last three years.

"When I took the position at the University of Chicago, our vaccine rate was very low. We were vaccinating basically five percent of our population for seasonal influenza," said Dr. Kristine Bordenave, Director, Student Care Center.

Bordenave said the SCC was administering fewer than 800 vaccines prior to instituting the "Gladwell step". Vaccinations jumped to 1,800 the first year of implementation of what she described as "doing a very simple process change."

With the success of the program, U of C put up more maps across campus.

At the peak of last year's H1N1 pandemic, the vaccination sites were vaccinating approximately 25 percent of the total student population of 15,000, or 4,200 vaccines Bordenave said.

Bordenave said the university's Gladwell-inspired H1N1campaign plan experienced no significant problems and was well received by students. Interestingly, she said, the only real challenge encountered was getting full-time clinic staff to buy into the plan.

As more students flowed through each site, more employees were needed to cover the vaccination needs in an efficient, systematic way. The university responded by hiring temporary agency staff to fill in at the clinic doing triage in the regular clinic population while their employed nurses were out immunizing students because they are able to vaccinate more quickly having participated in the same process repeatedly over the past three years.

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