MSU's home for the McQueary College of Health and Human Services

The Ann Kampeter Health Sciences Hall, formerly known as the Professional Building, is home to the McQueary College of Health and Human Services.

Missouri State University’s Ozarks Public Health Institute is offering an opportunity for students to work with the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, as well as other Springfield nonprofits to increase vaccine education.

Dr. Daniel Duitsman, director of OPHI, said the program started in late July, following a visit from the CDC. Two northwest census tracts of Springfield have a very poor rate of vaccination, leading multiple organizations to partner to fix it.

According to Duitsman, the program is recruiting students interested in communication, marketing and film. An informational PDF about the opportunity circulated to students in the Judith Enyeart Reynolds College of Arts and Letters on Friday, Aug. 27. The PDF outlined the specifics of the project, which will include information sheets, sandwich boards and personal stories to encourage vaccination in the community.

Duitsman said the recruitment window is brief due to the nature of the project.

. “I've contacted professors to contact students and to try to get to the areas that we really need, so that we can have students involved in this planning process because everything is so timely right now,” said Duitsman.

Duitsman said he was thrilled to present the opportunity to work with the different agencies and that it allows students to see a real world public health issue. 

“Obviously we wished we weren't dealing with this public health issue, but we are,” Duitsman said. “And since we are, we're trying to have the students have as much input as possible.”

Emily Fessler, project coordinator, said the full partnership of the project extends from OPHI and the Drew Lewis Foundation in Springfield to the CDC in Atlanta, GA. According to their website, the Drew Lewis Foundation is a local nonprofit that aims to increase the “household income, social capital, and community engagement” of people around the Springfield area.

Each organization meets weekly via ZOOM to get updated on the progress of the opportunity.

Fessler said the specific targets of the project are census tracts 19 and 33 of Springfield, and will run until those areas are “on par” with vaccination rates in the rest of the state and then in the country. 

Fessler stressed how communication is key in dealing with the opportunity.

”There's a lot of different elements to what we're doing,” Fessler said. “And social media is another element. But it’s a very important project, kind of student-led.”

Students interested in the project can reach out to Duitsman or Fessler at dalenduitsman@missouristate.edu or reichgeld4@live.missouristate.edu.

Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley

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