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Extension's Unique Strength in Immunization Education: Health and Community Partnerships

The Extension Collaboration for Immunization, Teaching, and Engagement (EXCITE) project was created to reduce vaccine hesitancy in rural and medically underserved communities. Drawing upon Cooperative Extension System's (CES) many unique strengths, EXCITE teams were able to effectively respond and deliver immunization education to their priority populations.

One valuable strength was the strategic cultivation of partnerships, where Extension leveraged its tools, knowledge, and community connections to collaborate with state and local health partners. We will explore how these partnerships played a fundamental role in the success of the EXCITE project.

Health Partnerships: Bridging Gaps in Vaccine Education and Access

Collaboration was key to overcoming challenges. In a period of when state and county health departments were overwhelmed and there was a pressing need for reliable evidence-based messaging, Extension capitalized on its strengths to effectively coordinate efforts and collaborate with stakeholders. This included enhancing communication between communities and healthcare systems, improving accessibility and acceptability of local clinics, and mobilizing communities to implement health initiatives. With the collective knowledge of community demographics, EXCITE project teams collaborated with local partners to deliver adult immunization information and resources, organize vaccine events, and mobilize vaccine clinics. These partnerships facilitated more efficient messaging and outreach efforts, resulting in increased immunization uptake.

The EXCITE Pilot Projects maximized resource sharing and messaging dissemination by establishing relationships with community organizations, public health departments, and other trusted entities within target communities. A total of 234 partnerships were formed within the Pilot Projects, spanning internal and academic, community, health departments, faith-based organizations, and healthcare providers.

Reported successes of EXCITE partnerships included:

  • Increased access and ability to deliver vaccines
  • Increase availability of immunization education to a wider audience and utilize experts in various fields to enrich their project’s knowledge base
  • Overcome challenges to providing vaccine education
  • Increased teams’ ability to communicate and access more translation services to facilitate effective communication with multilingual communities

Beyond Immunization

These partnerships, built on trust and shared goals, have laid the groundwork for future collaboration across various public health initiatives beyond immunization. Want to see the power of collaboration in action? Check out the videos featuring three public health partners discussing their involvement in EXCITE projects and other community efforts.

You’ll see: 

  • Unique contributions each partner brought to the project
  • The positive impact of their collaboration
  • How the relationship has evolved and grown stronger through working together
  • Their vision for the future of the partnership and continued success.

These stories demonstrate the strides made by the EXCITE project in elevating Extension as a valuable partner in public health!

EXCITE Health Partnership: NCDHHS and NC State Extension

EXCITE Partnership: Arkansas Extension & ARcare
Learn Firsthand from VSU&VT Extension!

To hear about an EXCITE partnership firsthand, join us at the March Program Center Stage, Extension & Public Health: A Spotlight on Collaborative Excellence with EXCITE Virginia Team. This webinar showcases the successful partnership between Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and the public health sector, featuring the EXCITE Virginia team. Led by Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, this team has tackled vaccine-related health disparities in rural and underserved areas by working closely with county governments, health departments, United Way, and pharmacies to set up vaccine clinics and educate communities. Their efforts earned them the National Immunization Excellence Award. In this webinar, they'll share their strategies, lessons learned, and outcomes achieved, offering insights on effective collaboration between Extension and public health agencies .Register here.

Read more about the EXCITE project:
EXCITE Pilot Projects - Final Report
EXCITE Annual Report – Year Two
EXCITE Vaccinate in Confidence Final Report

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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