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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: The Village of Oak Park Department of Public Health
State: IL
Date Added: 01/06/2010
Themes: Communications - General H1N1,Vaccine Planning and Administration
Issue Summary: Small LHD carries out a successful H1N1 vaccination strategy through collaboration, use of contemporary communication strategies and improved 'customer service'
Description of Issue(s): The Village of Oak Park Health Department serves a jurisdiction of 52,000 bordering Chicago. As with many public health entities, Health Department staffing has been reduced in the past several years as a result of the economic downturn and its effect on local government. The Health Department now has a staff of 10.4 FTE providing a variety of public health services in the community. Fortunately, the Health Department has a long-standing tradition of collaboration with all municipal departments in the Village which has proven very helpful in responding to the needs of residents with reduced pubic health staff. These partnerships, in addition to a focus on maintaining good customer service, have resulted in a highly successful H1N1 vaccination campaign.
Actions taken to address the issue(s): The Oak Park Health Department was charged with the responsibility to provide H1N1 vaccinations, targeted primarily to those most at risk, in an efficient and timely way.The Department has a long history of collaboration with all other municipal services in the Village including Police, Fire and Public Works. For a number of years, the Oak Park Fire Department has collaborated with the Health Department to deliver seasonal flu vaccine, with paramedics providing vaccinations in clinics planned and managed by public health staff. Over a number of years, seasonal flu clinics have been held at the Fire Department in addition to other community sites. During H1N1, the Fire Department paramedics were anxious to help. Despite some unavoidable delays, paramedics were eventually able to assist MRC volunteers and nursing staff in vaccinating several thousand residents for H1N1 - children and adults alike - at clinics at both the Fire Department and other sites. The Fire Department is an especially interesting and novel place for kids to receive their vaccinations: being able to see the fire trucks up close takes away some of the 'sting' from the shot. Support for the H1N1 campaign was also provided by the Village's Communications Department whose staff employed contemporary communications tools to promote the vaccination clinics, in addition to the standard press releases and web page postings. Communications staff 'tweeted' on Twitter and posted information on the Village's Facebook page. In addition, the Village's videographer produced a short video about the H1N1 clinics which was posted on the Village's H1N1 web page, on You Tube, Facebook and linked on Twitter. The video served to show residents the H1N1 clinic process and allay concerns about long lines and vaccine availability ( The Department made the decision, from the beginning, to avoid the long lines and screening of individuals for their 'priority' status at the door. Grant funds were utilized to hire temporary 'call' staff to make appointments. A flu hotline was set up and every phone message on a Health Department phone began with "If you are calling for an H1N1 vaccination, please hang up and dial the flu hotline, 358.5601". At one point in time, as many as 800 calls had been recorded on the hotline voicemail. With patience and determination, approximately 9000 residents have received appointments and have been vaccinated, to date.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: The Health Department expects to provide approximately 10,000 H1N1 vaccinations by the end of the campaign. The collaboration with the Fire Department as well as with all other Village staff that have provided support in the planning and implementation of the vaccination program has only helped to strengthen interdepartmental relationships . The communication strategies put in place to market the program, as well as the focus on customer service, have made the Health Department more visible and connected to the community; and the residents - our 'customers' - are satisfied. More residents are not only aware of the existence of a local health department in the community but also seem to recognize the value of public health services being locally accessible.

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