The STI Clinic News > Motivations HPV Vaccinations Explored
# Sunday, 12 May 2013
Posted: Sunday, 12 May 2013 | Categories: HPV

As a general rule when it comes to policy-making, scare tactics rarely rule. However, that is not to say that it is not important to know what key concern may motivate an individual to seek help for their problem. A recently published study has come out with findings that suggest that young women are more concerned about preventing genital warts than cancer when it comes to being motivated to get the HPV vaccine.


The study, which was published in the journal Health Communication, included a total of 188 college women and 115 of their mothers. The college women had an average age of 22, whereas the mothers had an average age of 50. All the participants were given packets of materials that had a pro-vaccine message and a questionnaire. Both age groups were then split into half. One half of the young women's group received a leaflet that had a heading stating “prevent cervical cancer”, whereas the other half of this age group received a leaflet with a header that stated “prevent genital warts”. In this age group the main outcomes were to see whether any message would be a higher motivator for the participant to speak to a doctor about the HPV vaccine. The mothers group was also split into half and received similar packets. The main difference was that rather than advocating that they speak to a doctor, the leaflet was wondering whether the mothers would encourage their daughters to speak to a doctor about HPV vaccinations. In addition to that, all the participants received a questionnaire where their feelings about the vaccine were investigated.


The researchers postulated that young women would be more motivated to seek medical advice if they worried about genital warts than about cervical cancer. This was based on past studies, which have found that adults tend to worry about cancer at a much later stage in life. This was supported by the current study's findings. The researchers also hypothesised that the mothers would prefer to encourage their daughters if their key concern was cancer, as sexually transmitted illnesses would have been a cause of embarrassment. However, this was not supported by the findings. Instead the mothers seemed keen to speak to their daughters regardless of the type of risks.


This study certainly is interesting and valuable, as it has illuminated the need to consider generational differences when it comes to campaigns for this vaccination. In addition to that, the findings appear quite reliable (albeit in need of replication in other populations). However, it is also worth noting that there seem to be many steps between the findings and the conclusion that do not automatically follow. Perhaps the most notable ones come from the fact that the study is asking whether the women would do something, rather than measuring whether they performed the task (i.e. went to the doctor or spoke to their daughters). As such, it is not possible to rule out intentions from actions and the presence of social desirability remains ignored throughout the publication. Nevertheless, it offers a refreshing perspective that takes two points of view into account. It is our hope that this study inspires further studies in other populations in order to establish how to best motivate various individuals to get HPV vaccinations. You can read more here.


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