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Jeri Boren

When you tell people that limited doses of a life-saving vaccine are available and they'll be administered on a first-come-first-served basis, people change, says Ron Garrison.

The first two days of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 were a natural disaster. But what followed was a man-made disaster, he says.

People couldn't wait in line to get medical attention. Fights broke out, and overcrowding hampered an orderly dispersal of goods and medicine.

Davis County isn't like to face a hurricane, but in a medical crisis, such as a pandemic influenza outbreak, people are going to need attention and quickly.

The solution that Garrison, a member of the Davis County Board of Health, came up with was to use Utahns' churchgoing habits as a way to get them help. Garrison's work in the public health arena garnered him a "Public Health Hero" award by the Utah Public Health Association recently.

During 2006, Garrison was instrumental in setting up an agreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use one meetinghouse in each of the church's 55 Davis County stakes in certain emergencies.

In case of vaccinations, all of the nearly 300,000 people in Davis County could be vaccinated in seven hours.

In the event of a pandemic flu outbreak, the model calls for people, under the direction of Davis County Health Department Director Lewis Garrett, to go to a designated church building in each stake at their regular Sunday meeting time.

That way, Garrison says, if sufficient vaccine is available, 36 people could be vaccinated at a time.

Eventually, Garrison says, a system will need to be set up to train volunteers to administer vaccines so medical professionals will be free to treat people who are more seriously affected in a crisis.

Since the agreement was finalized in May 2006, other counties throughout the state have adopted similar agreements with the church.

Though the model has also spread to other states where the LDS Church has a significant following, Garrison said, partnerships with other faiths have been built as well.

Garrison wasn't alone in representing Davis County as a public health hero.

Jeri Boren, a health educator in the Davis County Health Department's Health Promotion Bureau, was honored as a health hero for her work to create a safer path for children who are forced to cross Gordon Avenue three times on their way to E.G. King Elementary.

In the past five years, five pedestrians have been hit while trying to cross Gordon to get to the school, according to the Davis health department.

Boren, who is a co-coordinator for Safe Kids Davis County, wrote a grant proposal that, once awarded, was the largest Walk This Way grant ever received in Utah at $250,000.

Funding will make it possible to build a sidewalk on the south side of Gordon so only one crossing has to be made. And $50,000 will used for a Green Ribbon Month campaign, an educational program stressing child pedestrian safety at every elementary school in the Davis School District.

Boren received the honor because this specific grant, which was completed with extra efficiency, was not part of Boren's regular job responsibilities.


E-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com