GNR Public Health awarded Model Practice Award by NACCHO

Posted on July 17th, 2023

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) awarded GNR Public Health (GNR) a 2023 Model Practice Award for our HIV prevention integration with Mpox vaccination efforts in Gwinnett County. NACCHO awards Model Practices to programs “demonstrating exemplary and replicable qualities in response to a critical local public health need.” GNR Public Health was one of only 23 local health departments in the nation to earn this recognition this year.  This is GNR’s second Model Practice award.

Dorian Freeman (center right), clinical infectious disease program director, and Andre Castro (center left), community engagement director, accept the 2023 NACCHO Model Practice Award for GNR Public Health.

During the Mpox epidemic in 2022, GNR mobilized to provide vaccinations for at-risk communities. At the time, national data showed that 38% of Mpox cases were reported as having an HIV diagnosis. GNR worked quickly with long-standing partner Positive Impact Health Centers to make vaccines available at a trusted HIV clinical care home. As vaccine availability increased, GNR expanded efforts by setting up additional vaccine clinics to serve the populations most at risk for Mpox infection. Eighty-five percent of the Mpox vaccine recipients vaccinated by GNR were among residents of Gwinnett, DeKalb, Fulton, and Cobb counties – four of 57 jurisdictions designated by CDC as having the highest HIV infection rates in the country. To ensure HIV prevention was included in all Mpox vaccination efforts, GNR provided on-site rapid HIV testing, take-home HIV test kits, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) referrals, and STI, HIV, and Mpox education. The agency even found a way to incorporate these services in drive-through vaccination events.

“We knew this was an opportunity to provide more comprehensive service to our community,” said Dorian Freeman, clinical infectious disease program director at GNR Public Health. “We have worked hard to earn the trust of individuals and communities at-risk for HIV, so when we saw the same community being affected by Mpox, we knew we could protect their health by providing more than just vaccines. Our collaborative vaccine events with Positive Impact Health Centers also allowed for rapid entry into HIV care for individuals testing positive for HIV.”

Winning a Model Practice Award allows GNR Public Health to share and inspire other health departments. Winning practices, as determined through a competitive, peer-reviewed process, are added to NACCHO’s Model Practice searchable online database, where other local health departments can review these best practices and adopt them for use in their community.

“Public health is such a team effort,” said Freeman. “Our model practice submission is no different. With the full support of our Boards of Health and under the leadership of our CEO, Dr. Audrey Arona, GNR focuses on serving in innovative and collaborative ways to protect the health of our communities.”

More information about GNR’s winning submission is available on NACCHO’s site. Awards were presented during the 2023 NACCHO360 Annual Conference on July 12, 2023.