A tool that has garnered much attention and won several awards has once again been recognized, this time as the winner in the student category of the poster competition at the First Pediatric Research Retreat held in Atlanta this past January. The poster, “Catch-Up Immunization Scheduling for Children and Adolescents,” which was one among 29 posters in the competition, describes the catch-up immunization scheduler developed in 2008 as part of a collaboration between the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The catch-up immunization scheduling suite currently consisting of four decision support tools was developed by Pinar Keskinocak, the Harold R. and Mary Anne Nash Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE), co-director in the Health and Humanitarian Logistics Center, and associate director of research in the Health Systems Institute; former ISyE Ph.D. student Faramroze Engineer (DR IE 2009); current ISyE Ph.D. student Hannah Smalley; and Dr. Larry Pickering from the CDC. Additionally, Sheila Isbell, a graduate student and researcher with the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), recently joined the project, and she and her team at GTRI have been instrumental in increasing visibility of and access to these decision support tools and improving the ease of use for both professionals and parents.
The problem of constructing catch-up immunization schedules is faced regularly by health-care professionals. According to Keskinocak, the decision-support tools were developed to improve coverage against vaccine-preventable diseases for children and adults and to aid caretakers and providers in making vaccination decisions appropriately and in a timely manner. The tools developed provide a means of educating individuals regarding vaccine recommendations and construct reliable immunization schedules quickly.
“Timely vaccination of the pediatric population, and the design of individualized catch-up schemes if regular vaccination intervals have been missed, are essential contributors to public health,” stated Dr. Richard Plemper, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Emory University and one of the judges in the poster competition. “The presented algorithm is thus of high significance.”
The tools target four groups: children through age 6, which was the focus of the winning poster; adolescents ages 7 through 18; and adults ages 19 and older in the U.S. and children and adolescents through age 19 in Canada. The tool targeting children through age 6 is freely available (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/scheduler/catchup.htm) and has been downloaded over 67,000 times since June 2008. An online version is planned for deployment in Spring 2011, and the tool for adolescents will be released early this year. The tool for adults is also available for download at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/scheduler/catchup.htm.
In addition to the best poster award, Keskinocak represented the team in accepting the 2010 EURO Excellence in Practice Award this past fall for the paper titled “Catch-Up Scheduling for Childhood Vaccination.”
Industrial and Systems Engineering