Lindsey Haynes-Maslow Tapped for Vaccine Education Program

— Written By Christian Woods

Woman smiling in front of bookshelf

As NC State Extension continues its effort to deliver vaccine education to North Carolina farmworkers, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty member is playing a leading role in a nationwide vaccine education effort in rural America.

Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, an associate professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, is helping guide national market research for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded effort being delivered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Both Haynes-Maslow’s work and the N.C. farmworker vaccine education program are supported by a program called EXCITE – short for the Extension Collaboration on Immunization Teaching and Education. The CDC recently provided $9.9 million to USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to fund EXCITE’s innovative approach to community education and partnerships that advance adult immunization.

NIFA will use the funds to support land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension System in developing and delivering immunization education to the communities they serve.

The Extension system will also work with local partners, including healthcare providers, to make COVID-19 and other adult vaccines more accessible for rural, medically under-served, and other harder-to-reach communities. Twenty state land-grant universities are expected to soon receive $200,000 each in competitive grants.

‘Now More Than Ever’

Haynes-Maslow’s role is to provide technical assistance, professional development and, training to grantees as they use social marketing to help people understand immunizations and vaccines so they can make informed decisions about them.

Haynes-Maslow will work with the national program for two years while continuing to lead Steps to Health, NC State Extension’s SNAP-Ed program. SNAP-Ed teaches people who are using or eligible for federal nutrition assistance about nutrition, physical activity, and how to stretch their food dollars.

She said that she sees “the need for the (vaccine education) program now more than ever, because we are at a critical point where there’s a relationship with the public and science that’s very fragile.

“We need to start focusing on how we gain back the trust within our communities and how we make sure that they understand that science, science communication, and the scientific process can be a long and sometimes messy process,” she said. “While this process is expected, the data we collect and analyze is systematic. Over time, consistently collecting and analyzing data allows us to paint a better picture of what is happening. In the end, I think we will come up with information that is credible.”

‘A Good Fit’

Haynes-Maslow added that she thinks the first-of-its-kind partnership between the CDC and the USDA on vaccine education is a good fit toward providing credible information that the public trusts, Haynes-Maslow said.

“As someone who is trained in public health and has been working at a land-grant university, I’m really interested in working at the intersection between community-based health and how Cooperative Extension can play a role in promoting positive health outcomes,” she said. “Extension has an amazing infrastructure in place to support these types of educational initiatives, and I hope that we can be seen as a trusted source of information out in the field.”

‘Trusted Messengers’

In a news release about the CDC-USDA partnership, CDC’s Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Jay Butler also mentioned that trust.

“Cooperative Extension agents are recognized and trusted messengers in their communities and can help deliver fact-based information on the COVID-19 vaccine and other adult vaccines,” Butler said. “We know vaccination rates overall are lagging in rural communities, and Extension agents can play an important role in building COVID-19 vaccine confidence and increasing vaccine access within the communities they serve.”

NIFA Director Carrie Castille also expressed confidence in the Extension system’s role in the partnership.

“Cooperative Extension has a century of experience as change agents and educators in communities across America,” Castille said. “This new partnership with CDC is a natural fit for the Extension System to do what they do best – provide balanced, reliable information so people can make informed decisions,” Castille added.

This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.