Erica Childs Warner

Many students will return to schools across the country this month. In two Appalachian counties in South Central Kentucky, nearly 2,000 students will be targeted for HPV awareness and vaccination. The Prevent Cancer Foundation gave the Lake Cumberland District Health Department a 2013 Community Grant for their “Spread the Word” HPV/cervical cancer prevention project. This project aims to increase the HPV vaccination initiation and completion rates among middle and high school students in Kentucky, where HPV vaccination rates of 31 percent are even lower than the national rate of 35 percent.

LCDHD table

HPV vaccinations are given as a series of three shots over six months. They come in two forms: Cervarix and Gardasil. While both forms protect against cervical cancer in women, Gardasil also protects against genital warts and cancers of the anus, vagina, and vulva. HPV vaccines are primarily for girls and boys aged 11 or 12, but they are also recommended for women through age 26 and men through age 21 who were unable to get vaccines at an earlier age.

Based on a 2013 survey, 20 percent or less of the targeted students in Kentucky have completed the vaccination process of three doses, and less than 40 percent have even started the process. With the goal of increasing initiation and completion rates by 25 percent, this project will work to increase accessibility through at least three school-based vaccination clinics at every school. Packets with cervical cancer prevention materials will be given to every student at the first of the school year. School nurses will track the participant’s vaccination status and notify students when their next vaccination is due.

LCDHD project staffThe Lake Cumberland District Health Department is building on prior success with school-based HPV education and health clinics. During the past year, 75 percent of eligible students chose to receive HPV vaccines – 94 percent of that number received their first dose, 93 percent received their second dose, and 66 percent received all three doses.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation is proud to support the Lake Cumberland District Health Department as it works with school-based health clinics in Russell and Casey County to provide vaccines and raise awareness of HPV and its link to cervical cancer. “We look forward to working with the Prevent Cancer Foundation to spread the word about cervical cancer and HPV vaccinations,” stated Carol Huckelby of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department.