Project ACE enhances community engagement in HPV prevention

A webinar held June 8, 2023, by the American Cancer Society North Central Region provided an informative presentation about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its relation to cervical cancer prevention and control. During this event, experts highlighted pivotal input from community volunteers in data collection and showcased improved patient awareness. Keynote speaker Hayley S. Thompson, Ph.D., associate center director of Community Outreach & Engagement at Karmanos Cancer Institute, professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and faculty supervisor of Karmanos’ Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement, delivered the details by Zoom about her team’s efforts, findings and results.

Dr. Thompson described national data for recognizing disparities in cancer survivorship and poor medical treatment for several ethnicities and socio-ethnic groups. In 2019 and 2021, Karmanos received funds to adapt and disseminate the National Cancer Institute’s National Outreach Network’s (NON) HPV educational materials. This was the start of Project ACE (Advocates for Cancer Education). Partnering with Detroit Parent Network and related community advocates, Project ACE works to educate the community on HPV and the HPV vaccine through an educational video. 

Before the Project ACE intervention was created, three focus groups were conducted in Detroit, Flint and Inkster. Their purpose was to better understand why African American parents and caregivers may hesitate or delay giving their children the HPV vaccine. Key findings from the focus groups included perceived discrimination based on race and insurance status, general mistrust in the medical system, the over-sexualization of Black children by medical practitioners, horrible communication between doctor and patient, and not receiving enough information from healthcare providers related to the vaccine. This study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care in 2023

“We try to do as much as we can within our communities,” said Dr. Thompson, “and we know it is not just the message to focus on cancer avoidance that’s important, but how that message is delivered.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Project ACE program had to pivot and communicate the message through video. In addition, two groups – InvolvedDad in Flint and Western Wayne Family Health Centers in Inkster – were invited to participate in an enhanced version of the educational video that could be presented during webinars and in group sessions. These videos feature testimonials, physician input about the importance of the HPV vaccine, including safety data and guidelines. The videos also focus on dispelling vaccination myths. There are also two versions of the Project ACE HPV educational video: one focusing solely on African Americans and another on multicultural audiences.

To understand viewer knowledge and intention around the HPV vaccine, those who watched the educational video were tested with a pre-test, post-test, and follow-up questionnaires after three and six months. Data collected from the tests revealed that viewers who watched the basic educational video experienced an 18.5% increase in knowledge of HPV vaccines, while those who watched the enhanced video reported now knowing 23.9% more information than before they watched the video.

Plans are currently in place for additional education sessions about HPV and the vaccine. There are also plans to implement Project ACE’s original goal of training community members to become lay health advisors and share the information within their communities. Additionally, the research team plans to adapt the existing video to other populations, including rural, LGBTQIA+, and Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) communities.

This article was written by Wendy Clem, member of the Macomb County Cancer Action Council.