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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Yale: Low HPV Vaccination Rates in Missouri Prompts Yale Student Response

When Ms.  Mary Katherine “MK” Montgomery’s work in child development was featured in a Yale School of Public Health social media post last year, a neonatologist in her Missouri hometown took notice.

Dr. Alan Barnette who works in the St. Francis Healthcare System wondered if MK might use her training to help address the fact that Missouri has the seventh highest HPV incidence rate in the country.

The initial data collected allowed the Yale School of Public Health group to look at vaccinations rates within the St. Francis Healthcare System, including four  pediatric practices in the state’s southeastern region — encompassing a population of about 57,500 people under the age of 18.The YSPH student team began by defining the problem and developing a conceptual model particular to the region to address its low vaccination rate. After administering anonymous surveys to healthcare providers and parents, two findings in particular struck the group as targets for their intervention:

When children get their tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDAP) and Meningococcal vaccines, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was not being administered at comparable rates. There is stigma and misinformation around HPV and the vaccine which create hesitancy among some parents who, meanwhile, are comfortable having their children vaccinated for polio, chickenpox or measles. The students narrowed the scope of their intervention to five behaviors and outcomes over which they had the greatest influence. They discovered that the hesitancy to vaccinate against HPV is due, in part, to sexual stigma associated with the vaccine process.

On the practice level, this means creating vaccine-friendly environments. On the community level, the group is partnering to develop social media information campaigns that target misinformation.

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