American Indian women in the Northern Plains region (which includes Minnesota) are four times more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with—and die from—cervical cancer. American Indian men have double the rates of oral and throat cancers. All are connected to the human papillomavirus (HPV).
“HPV vaccination has the potential to eliminate or drastically reduce the incidence of multiple cancers, most notably cervical cancer, which disproportionately affects American Indian populations,” says Annie-Laurie McRee, Dr.P.H., part of the U’s pediatrics faculty.
The HPV vaccine is recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds, but many American Indian adolescents are not receiving all recommended doses, McRee notes.
With Masonic support and in collaboration with the U’s Program in Health Disparities Research, McRee partnered with the American Indian Cancer Foundation to develop and test a culturally-tailored HPV vaccination communication training for tribal clinics.
“We’ve learned that there are unique concerns and barriers to vaccination among American Indian parents,” McRee explains. “The good news, though, is that we’ve also learned that the principles for effective provider communication about the cancer prevention benefits of HPV vaccination work well with these communities.”
Now the team is developing a tool kit of resources to support “back to school” vaccination of adolescents in tribal clinics. Drawing on lessons from this project and other research, McRee and colleagues also are developing an app to help clinicians self-assess their vaccination practices and make strong recommendations to parents about getting their children vaccinated.
“As a junior faculty member at the U coming from another state, receiving support from Minnesota Masonic Charities for a collaborative project like this has been invaluable in helping me start to be part of the community.”