SCCAHS uses survey data to understand Extension needs during public health crisis

GAINESVILLE, FL – Earlier this year, the Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (SCCAHS) launched a series of surveys aimed at understanding Florida Extension professionals’ experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These most recent findings provide insights into how Extension professionals can be better prepared to address future public health crises.

To better understand additional needs of Extension professionals during the pandemic, the center conducted a follow-up survey from March 16 to April 23, 2021. They found that 56.5% of Extension professionals had received a COVID-19 vaccine and 21.7% planned to receive it soon. 

“We wanted to find out what people were saying about vaccinations so that we can address concerns that people have about getting the vaccine,” said Glenn Israel, professor in the UF/IFAS department of agricultural education and communication, who was part of the SCCAHS research team that collected data for the survey series. 

Extension professionals who had already received the vaccine attributed their decision to age, health history and opinions of friends and family members. However, concern over possible side effects was frequently mentioned. 

SCCAHS developed the survey series to understand vaccine acceptance among Extension professionals. The survey series included 404 responses from county professionals,  state specialists, administrators and other Extension professionals in Florida.

SCCAHS has created a vaccine communication toolkit to help agricultural organizations communicate about the COVID-19 vaccine. The toolkit, available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese, is available on the center’s website.

This is not the first time that the center has provided programs based on survey results. An earlier survey conducted between May 18 and June 16, 2020, found about 90% of responding Extension professionals were observing stress or emotional symptoms in their clientele. 

The center responded by sponsoring a series of free Mental Health First Aid training programs for Extension professionals and agricultural employers in the Southeast. The programs were created to help Extension professionals address their communities’ mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and in future emergencies. 

“Extension’s response to our Mental Health First Aid trainings was astounding,” said Angie Lindsey, assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of family, youth and community sciences. “Every available spot in all four training sessions was filled.” 

Located at the University of Florida, the Southeastern Coastal Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (SCCAHS) explores health and safety issues of agricultural communities and professionals in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.