HPV vaccine use among African American girls: Qualitative formative research using a participatory social marketing approach

Pamela C. Hull, Elizabeth A. Williams, Dineo Khabele, Candace Dean, Brea Bond, Maureen Sanderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objective To generate recommendations for framing messages to promote HPV vaccination, specifically for African American adolescents and their parents who have not yet made a decision about the vaccine (the "Undecided" market segment). Methods Focus groups and interviews were conducted with African American girls ages 11-18 (N = 34) and their mothers (N = 31), broken into market segments based on daughter's vaccination status and mother's intent to vaccinate. Results Findings suggested that the HPV vaccine should be presented to "Undecided" mothers and adolescents as a routine vaccine (just like other vaccines) that helps prevent cancer. Within the "Undecided" segment, we identified two sub-segments based on barriers to HPV vaccination and degree of reluctance. The "Undecided/Ready If Offered" segment would easily accept HPV vaccine if given the opportunity, with basic information and a healthcare provider recommendation. The "Undecided/Skeptical" segment would need more in-depth information to allay concerns about vaccine safety, mistrust of drug companies, and recommended age. Some mothers and girls had the erroneous perception that girls do not need the vaccine until they become sexually active. African American adolescents and their mothers overwhelmingly thought campaigns should target both girls and boys for HPV vaccination. In addition, campaigns and messages may need to be tailored for pre-teens (ages 9-12) versus teens (ages 13-18) and their parents. Conclusions Findings pointed to the need to "normalize" the perception of HPV vaccine as just another routine vaccine (e.g., part of pre-teen vaccine package). Findings can inform social marketing campaigns targeting Undecided or ethnically diverse families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S13-S20
JournalGynecologic Oncology
Issue numberSUPPL1
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants CA163072 , CA163066 and CA163069 from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH) . The ResearchMatch.org registry, sponsored by NIH grants UL1TR000445 and 1U54RR032646 , is managed by the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. We would like to thank the members of our Community Advisory Board and Teen and Parent Committee, as well as our consultant, Carol Bryant, Ph.D., for their invaluable input into the design and implementation of this study and interpretation of the findings. We also thank Minka Reed, Blaine Brown, Alma Poole, Rita Fleming, and Stephenie Chimezie for their assistance with data collection and data management. The study is associated with Cervical Cancer Free Tennessee, for which the first author (PH) serves as a Statewide Co-Chair.


  • African Americans
  • Formative research
  • HPV vaccine
  • Social marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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