Barren River District Health Department Partners with Western Kentucky University for HPV Prevention Efforts

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Partners, including WKU students and administrators, brainstorm activities for their HPV action plan

By Alyson Jordan, MPA, Communications Specialist, NACCHO

To strategize how to increase vaccination rates for human papillomavirus (HPV), NACCHO worked with the Barren River District Health Department (KY) to host an action planning meeting on April 30 and May 1. This meeting is one of ten action planning meetings with local health departments (LHDs) selected by NACCHO to identify strategies to improve vaccination rates against HPV, the leading cause of cervical and several other types of cancers. The award supports LHDs to engage locally with healthcare providers and other partners to increase HPV vaccination rates in the states with the lowest HPV vaccination rates in the country.

In addition to a wide representation of community partners, Barren River District Health Department invited public health and nursing faculty and students from Western Kentucky University (WKU) to participate in the action planning meeting. Several representatives participated in the initial assessment and planning on day one. On day two, health department staff and NACCHO co-hosted a special session to develop a specific action plan for the university. Involving the university is critical to helping raise southwestern Kentucky’s low HPV vaccination rates. Although the target population for receiving the HPV vaccine is boys and girls ages 11 and 12, catch up vaccines can be given to young adults through age 26.

On day one, community partners from a variety of local agencies attended the action planning meeting to discuss their community’s challenges and opportunities for increasing HPV vaccination rates. The attendees included those from the local public school system, healthcare providers, faith-based organizations, community agencies, and more. The LHD’s active partnership with the regional office of the Kentucky Cancer Program was especially important for bringing together these stakeholders. Attendees focused on a variety of strategies to increase vaccination rates, such as engaging providers, promoting health education and awareness, developing clear and consistent messaging, and learning from parents and providers about barriers to vaccine uptake. Several attendees from WKU suggested additional strategies for engaging the university community, such as inviting healthcare providers to speak about the importance of the HPV vaccine to the freshman experience class and to nursing students before graduation.

Fifteen WKU students and faculty joined the university’s strategic action planning meeting on day two to outline specific ways that students and university leadership could raise awareness about the HPV vaccine throughout the school year. Students suggested hosting high-profile quarterly vaccination clinics in which the campus health clinic staff provide vaccines for HPV and seasonal influenza, as appropriate. Other suggestions included inviting a student or Greek organization to adopt HPV prevention as a cause; promoting the vaccine on giveaways during campus events; and messaging the importance of the vaccine in campus-wide communications. Students were excited to start on promoting the HPV vaccine at the beginning of the next school year in August and outlined the steps they would take throughout the 2015–2016 academic year to raise students’ awareness about the importance of the HPV vaccine and to increase access. They anticipate that three campus organizations will be especially involved in the effort: the campus chapter of the Kentucky Public Health Association and the WKU Pan-Hellenic and Inter-Fraternity Councils.

Local colleges and universities can be a key partner for LHDs in health promotion, especially when the target population is within this age range. Is your LHD working with a local college or university? Let us know in the comments section below.

For tools and resources to help your LHD increase HPV vaccination rates, view NACCHO’s new Guide to HPV Resources for Local Health Departments.

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