NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Linking Welfare To Child Immunization

October 7, 1998

Alarmed by dangerously low immunization rates among the children of the poor, Chicago officials have come up with a novel approach to "encourage" parents' cooperation. According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the program is producing heartening results.

  • Parents who fail to have their children immunized must report to authorities monthly, instead of quarterly, to collect federal food vouchers.
  • Over a 15-month period since the plan was initiated in June 1996, the immunization rate among 13,760 children affected increased to 89 percent from 56 percent.
  • Among a comparison group of 2,821 children whose guardians had to report only quarterly, the immunization rate remained substantially unchanged.
  • Since the 1989-91 measles epidemic, immunization rates in much of the nation have risen -- to an average of more than 80 percent -- while the rate in some poor urban communities is only about 30 percent.

The Chicago incentive program, which cost $271,000, was conceived by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and carried out by Chicago officials with the assistance of the CDCP. Those familiar with the initiative report that in the past, collaboration of government agencies had been difficult for various bureaucratic and budgetary reasons.

Source: Holcomb B. Noble, "Incentive Program for Poor Raises Immunization Rates," New York Times, October 7, 1998.


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