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DAVIS COUNTY GIVING PILOT PROGRAM A SHOT

The next computer-generated telephone call young parents in Davis County get may not be an offer to clean the carpets or take a family photo. It may be a reminder that the kids are due for their shots.

A pilot program using computer-dialed, prerecorded messages to remind parents their children are due for immunization booster shots was announced Tuesday by Mary Meredith, head of the county health department's nursing division.It's part of the state's drive to raise the level of immunization among Utah's preschoolers, which Meredith said is one of the lowest in the nation.

The ongoing program, which has used public service announcements, mobile vans, and other reminders, has raised the im-mu-ni-za-tion rate for 2-year-olds from 48 percent to 56 percent, Meredith said.

That's only a modest gain, she told the county health board Tuesday, especially in light of the goal: A 90 percent rate by next year.

Meredith said the computer calls are part of a larger, overall pilot program in the county that will put all immunization records, including those from private-practice physicians, into a central data bank.

A computer can then search the records, and when it finds a youngster is due for a booster or new round of shots, it will automatically dial up the home phone number.

The computer will either deliver its message - which Meredith recorded - to the person answering the phone, leave it on an answering machine or call back if the line is busy or there is no answer.

Recognizing that in many young families both parents work during the day, the computer will make its calls between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., she said.

A similar program has been used in other states, Meredith said, and has proved successful.

"What they found is that many parents after a few times of being called didn't listen to the whole message. As soon as they heard it was from the health department, they realized it was a reminder to get the kids their shots, and hung up," Meredith said.

The health department has been using telephone reminders, along with postcards and other means, to reach parents for some time, Meredith said. But using the computer will free personnel from having to do it in person.

"It's a pilot program. The state will be watching closely to see if it brings up the rate of immunizations over the next six months to a year," Meredith said.