Bank of America grant to expand community-based childhood immunization program in northern Manhattan

Grant enables Mailman School of Public Health's Northern Manhattan Start Right Coalition to scale-up vaccination program

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation today announced a $750,000 gift to Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health's Northern Manhattan Start Right Coalition, a community-based childhood immunization program. Members of the community joined with elected officials and leaders from Bank of America, Mailman School of Public Health, and Columbia University Medical Center to support the Start Right Coalition's efforts to vaccinate all of the approximately 6,000 children born annually in Washington Heights and Harlem and to announce the Start Right Coalition's latest immunization coverage rates.

The Bank of America Charitable Foundation grant will enable the scale up of the existing Start Right program, linking the Coalition members in a coordinated network to reach and vaccinate all 6,000 children born annually in Northern Manhattan.

The Start Right Coalition's latest research findings released today show the significant improvement in immunization rates as a result of the community-wide program:

  • The current 80.5% immunization rate for children in the Start Right program, is a 30% increase since the program's inception in 1999. This figure, for children 19-35 months, exceeds the 73% average for New York City and exceeds the national average of 79%
  • The 78% immunization rate for African-American children living in Harlem is higher than the 73% for U.S. African Americans.
  • The 84% immunization rate for Latino children residing in Washington Heights exceeds the 77% for Latino children in the U.S.
  • The national average for U.S. white, non-Latino children is currently 82.5%.

"Bank of America is committed to advancing the development of children as part of our commitment to fostering healthy and vibrant neighborhoods. The Start Right Coalition Program will provide the children born in Northern Manhattan each year with the opportunity to have a strong foundation for a healthy future with a goal of meeting the national standard of 90% immunized by age two. We're proud that our contribution will have a positive effect on families and children in New York City," said Anne Finucane, director of global corporate affairs at Bank of America.

Established in 1999 to reduce childhood disparities in immunization rates, The Northern Manhattan Start Right Coalition has its base in the Mailman School of Public Health's Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health and works in partnership with Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI), Alianza Dominicana, and other community organizations. With support from the Reach 2010 program of the CDC, the program was conceived, planned, and implemented through a coalition of 23 member groups whose cornerstone is integration of immunization promotion activities into the ongoing social service programs within its network of community social service organizations. Serving Harlem and Washington Heights through a true partnership, the program teams parents, physicians, and community health workers in a concerted effort to provide vaccinations to children ages 6-23 months¯a group of top priority for early immunization during this crucial, formative time of their lives.

With a total of 5,298 children already vaccinated through the Start Right Coalition and an additional 2,369 en route, the Start Right Coalition now expects to reach the 10,000 immunized children goal by 2007, and meet the national standard of 90% appropriately immunized by age two.

"While the world has made tremendous strides in reducing the major childhood illnesses, we can not be complacent. Exposure may be only a plane ride and visitor away. In our global community, early immunization is more important than ever for ensuring the ongoing good health of young children," explains Allan Rosenfield, MD, dean, Mailman School of Public Health. "We must make every effort to provide families with the tools for understanding the value, urgency, and steps involved with the vaccination process. Bank of America recognizes this and we are grateful for their commitment to Columbia and the community."

According to Sally Findley, PhD, professor of clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School and leader of the Northern Manhattan Start Right Coalition, "Support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will enable the Coalition to embed their successful community immunization program directly into the healthcare system, ensuring that community health workers routinely learn the skills they need to promote immunizations, the community's healthcare providers have the latest training and immunization system-supports, and that the community and health care provider efforts are linked to ensure that no childhood immunizations are overlooked."

The program provides substantive training to community health workers, who identify and recruit parents of children at risk for delay in their immunization. "The health workers simplify the process for parents, making it easier for them to track and maintain immunization records and adhere to the vaccination schedule," added Dr. Findley. "They educate parents about immunization requirements, encourage them to be proactive in requesting vaccinations, explain how to navigate the system, offer referrals, and provide one-on-one personalized follow-up." Because immunization promotion is nested within the organizational activities, the outreach workers are program staff, very often residents of the community and often peers who have previously been program participants.

The guiding principles for the program strategies include:

  • Community leadership, integration with community social service programs, parental empowerment, peer health educators, linkage with community health care providers;
  • Integration of immunization promotion activities into ongoing programs at community organizations, such as immunization education through WIC or Head Start rather than a separate immunization program;
  • Goal of empowering parents as active partners – i.e., taking immunization competencies out of the doctor's office and into the community;
  • Reliance on proven strategies of reminders, tracking and positive feedback to community organizations and parents.

"We are delighted with our alliance with the Bank of America Charitable Foundation," says Roy Vagelos, MD, chairman of Columbia University Medical Center's capital campaign, Defining the Future. "The partnership between Bank of America and Columbia University Medical Center will directly impact the Washington Heights community and it will help Columbia maintain its position at the forefront of patient care."


Bank of America Charitable Foundation
In 2005, Bank of America embarked on a $1.5 billion philanthropic goal over 10 years, making the bank one of the most generous corporate donors in the country. The bank has announced a goal to donate $200 million to non-profit organizations across the country in 2006 alone. Bank of America will reach this goal through a national strategy called "neighborhood excellence" under which the bank works with local community leaders to identify and meet the most pressing needs of each individual market. For more information about the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, please visit

Mailman School of Public Health
The first accredited school of public health in New York City, and among the first in the nation, Columbia University 's Mailman School of Public Health provides instruction and research opportunities to more than 850 graduate students in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Its students and more than 250 multi-disciplinary faculty engage in research and service in the city, nation, and around the world, concentrating on biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, population and family health, and sociomedical sciences.

Columbia University Medical Center
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders in health care and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Mailman School of Public Health, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center researchers are leading the discovery of novel therapies and advances to address a wide range of health conditions.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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