A partnership between health sciences students and a local health agency has created an opportunity for parents to become more educated on a virus that can cause cancer.
Students in Jessica Henderson’s Promoting Health Behaviors class at Indiana University Kokomo recently researched the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the majority of cervical cancers. They developed educational brochures, posters and other materials for the Howard County Health Department and then tested their effectiveness with more than 200 people.
Student Sarah Brown said students worked hard on researching, because it is important to present fact-based information and to dispel myths about vaccinations. The HPV vaccine has met some resistance because it is for a sexually transmitted disease.
“We wanted parents to understand, this is the most studied vaccine ever, and it’s safe for your child,” she said in a press release. “We have to change parents’ beliefs, so they understand that vaccines protect, not harm.”
Adriana Sanchez, whose group created materials in both Spanish and English, was surprised by how little information is widely available about the vaccine.
“We didn’t know there were so many people out there unaware of it,” she said. “We know of at least one person who looked at our materials and then took her son for his first dose of the vaccine.”
Henderson said their work is important, because Howard County’s HPV vaccination rate is below the national average.
“The students became more familiar with public health agencies and had an opportunity to work on a real-life project, which has the benefit to be used in the community,” she said. “The Howard County Health Department and the Indiana Immunization Coalition benefitted from the students’ specific range of knowledge, and creative skills, to create messages for health officials and parents of teens and young adults.”