Contributed by Linda F. Carson, MD, FACOG
Research suggests that improving communication about HPV vaccination between primary care providers and parents of patients is the most important strategy for increasing vaccination rates in the United States.1,2 When providers positively, or strongly, recommend the vaccine, patients are four to five times more likely to pursue vaccination than they are when a weak recommendation is given.3,4 Unfortunately, primary care providers often give a weak HPV vaccine recommendation5,6 or no recommendation at all.7 When over 3,000 primary care providers in the United States were asked about the barriers to communicating about HPV vaccination with parents, 47% of primary care providers reported that discussing parental concerns took more time than was available at the appointment. Over half (55%) of providers agreed with the statement, “There was nothing I could say to change the minds of parents who wish to delay or refuse vaccination.”8
To address these concerns, Minnesota HPV has launched an ongoing research study to identify a systems-based approach to reversing the low HPV vaccination rates in Minnesota. The initiative seeks to engage healthcare providers where they are—in clinics, schools, pharmacies and other places in the community— and has created a toolkit designed to equip providers with information needed to help promote the HPV vaccine.
To bring the toolkit to healthcare providers across the state, Minnesota HPV has teamed up with University of Minnesota Medical School’s Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP). RPAP enables third-year medical students to live and train for 9 months in non-metropolitan communities, working under the supervision of preceptors who are family physicians. Partnering with Minnesota HPV, RPAP students are being trained to work with rural providers to identify barriers to HPV vaccination uptake (including difficulties in communicating with parents) and to help implement evidence-based solutions. Data on vaccination rates gathered before and after implementation of the program will be tracked and reported. Information on vaccination rates in communities without Minnesota HPV-partnered RPAP students will be tracked as comparative data.
The HPV vaccine could potentially reduce HPV-induced cancers by one-third, yet vaccination rates lag. An M Health physician helps lead an initiative designed to support physicians in encouraging use of the vaccine.Continue reading