New collaborative research from a team based at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health addresses the issue of what policy opportunities exist to increase vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in rural communities. The resulting publication, by Dr. Robin C. Vanderpool and Ms. Lindsay Stradtman of the UK College of Public Health department of health, behavior & society; and Dr. Heather M. Brandt, of the USC Arnold School department of health promotion, education and behavior, appears in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. Dr. Vanderpool, the first and corresponding author, is also director for community outreach and engagement at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Markey Cancer Center.
The authors note that rural communities experience health disparities – including elevated incidence of and mortality stemming from – HPV-associated cancers. The same communities have correspondingly low HPV vaccination rates. Based on their prior and current research, the authors describe numerous policy strategies available at multiple levels – patient, provider, clinic, community, state, and national – to address the geographic, clinical, and communication barriers to HPV vaccination across rural America. These options, according to the investigators, include policy development, implementation, and evaluation of healthcare provider and clinic-based assessment and education initiatives; school entry requirements; school, pharmacy, and community-based vaccination programs; evidence-based, community-driven communication efforts; and increased interventional research in rural communities.
The authors conclude that “[s]trategically implemented policy measures will contribute to reduction in the incidence and mortality from HPV-related cancers through increased access to HPV vaccination in our rural communities.”