The Prevent Cancer Foundation® is supporting two statewide projects to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates through its Community Grants Program. HPV is the leading cause of several cancers including cervical, oropharyngeal, anal and more, making this vaccine a critical tool in the fight against cancer.
Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to learn about how people are working to reduce cervical and other cancer rates in their communities.
Raising awareness of the HPV vaccine in West Virginia
West Virginia has the highest incidence and second-highest mortality rate for cervical cancer in the United States. Cervical cancer can be prevented with the HPV vaccine, yet the vaccination rates in West Virginia are staggeringly low. In an effort to improve these rates, recent community grantee The Center for Rural Health Development, Inc., created the West Virginia HPV Vaccination Stakeholder Initiative with the goal to increase HPV vaccination rates among young people ages 9–26. The state-wide initiative included an HPV vaccination summit that was attended by 63 stakeholders from 36 organizations.
The summit led to the development of a statewide action plan to improve HPV vaccination rates. Activities include regional trainings for health care providers, public awareness events and the development of the We Are the Key to Cancer Prevention: The WV HPV Vaccination Campaign. Clinics and medical practices pledge to prioritize HPV vaccination in order to achieve 80 percent HPV vaccination coverage among age-appropriate patients.
“Funding from the Prevent Cancer Foundation has enabled us to reach health care providers across the state and educate them about HPV, HPV vaccination and strategies to improve HPV vaccination rates. We see more and more providers making strong, effective recommendations for HPV vaccination,” said Elaine Darling, MPH, Project Manager for the West Virginia Immunization Network.
Increasing provider recommendations for the HPV vaccine in North Dakota
In Fargo, North Dakota, the North Dakota State University Center for Immunization Research and Education created a program to encourage providers to talk about the HPV vaccine with their patients. The project’s director, Dr. Paul J. Carson, MD, FACP said, “The biggest predictor of HPV vaccination is a provider recommendation for the vaccine.” Dr. Carson and his team provide peer-to-peer education to 200 pediatric and family medicine health care providers on why HPV vaccination is so important and how to recommend the vaccine for age-appropriate patients during medical visits.
After the educational sessions, health care providers will:
- Know the current immunization rates and trends to understand barriers to immunization.
- Be able to make strong, consistent and effective recommendations for the HPV vaccine for both males and females.
- Be able to address parental or patient concerns or questions about the vaccine.
- Make HPV vaccination procedures routine in their practices, and focus on ways to reduce missed opportunities to vaccinate adolescent males and females.
Project manager Danielle Pinnick, MPH, said, “The long-term objective of the project is to achieve a change in the culture surrounding HPV vaccine recommendation leading to an increase in the number of North Dakota adolescents fully or partially immunized against HPV throughout the state”.
You can also help prevent cancer
Help protect the health of your friends and family members during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. For those who are age-appropriate for HPV vaccination (and their parents), talk to them about how cervical cancer is highly preventable and encourage them to get vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls ages 11-12; but most young women can get a “catch up” vaccine until age 26 and most young men can be vaccinated until age 21. Remember, it is critical that adolescent girls AND boys get vaccinated.
To learn more about the link between viruses and cancer, check out the Think About the Link® campaign. Think About the Link® focuses on three viruses linked to cancer—HPV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C—to help you get the vaccinations and testing you need to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!®