The Extension Collaboration for Immunization, Teaching, and Engagement (EXCITE) project
was created to reduce vaccine hesitancy in rural and medically underserved communities. Funded by
the CDC through an Interagency Agreement with USDA NIFA and a cooperative agreement with the Extension Foundation, the team has four goals: reduce hesitancy, increase communication between populations and health systems, increase accessibility to clinics and help implement public health programs.
The EXCITE teams were able to leverage the unique strengths of the Cooperative Extension System (CES) to respond to the global pandemic and deliver immunization education to their targeted audiences. Extension utilized its tools, knowledge, and connections to communities to reduce barriers to COVID-19 and adult vaccinations, improve communication between the community and healthcare systems, increase accessibility and acceptability of local clinics, and mobilize communities to implement health initiatives.
Unique Strength Highlighted: Partnerships
The Cooperative Extension Service’s Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) program has a history of conducting research and educational activities that support public health. However, in the past, there has been a lack of collaboration with city and county health partners to address community-level health issues. This started to change with the EXCITE project, which required land-grant universities to partner with local health organizations in order to apply for funding. At a time when state and county health departments were overwhelmed and communities needed reliable evidence-based messaging, Extension was able to coordinate their efforts and collaborate with these stakeholders
Through these partnerships, Extension was able to work closely with health departments at all levels, creating collaborations based on a shared commitment to promoting immunization and acceptance of vaccines among their communities. The success of the EXCITE project can be attributed largely to these partnerships with professional schools, healthcare providers, state and local health departments, faith-based organizations, and other community partners. By working together, Extension and its partners were able to use their collective knowledge of community geography, culture, and social norms to reach their target audience with comprehensive education and resources. Leveraging these partnerships, EXCITE was able to reach target audiences with efficient messaging that ultimately led to success in increasing immunization uptake. These collaborations have also paved the way for further partnerships across multiple fields beyond immunization education.
Public health partnerships in particular were instrumental in promoting vaccine uptake among EXCITE projects. EXCITE projects teams identified physicians and respected professionals from the state department of health as experts for presentations and speeches at community events and attended a call hosted by the state department of health to build relationships with 138 local
health departments. At least 100 of these local health departments have since disseminated community surveys created by the EXCITE project.
Check out the videos featuring four public health partners discussing their involvement in EXCITE projects. These videos provide insight into what each partner contributed to the project, the impact of their partnership, how their relationship has evolved since working together, and their vision for the future of the partnership. These videos demonstrate the strides made by the EXCITE project in elevating Extension as a valuable partner in public health!