Jan. 6, 2017

NDSU program to improve HPV vaccination rates


A new NDSU project aims to increase vaccination rates among North Dakota youth to prevent cancer.

The effort is funded with a two-year $400,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is subcontracted through the North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control immunization program.

NDSU’s Center for Immunization Research and Education will work to improve the vaccination rate for human papillomavirus, or HPV, among adolescents. The center is part of NDSU’s Department of Public Health.

The grant will fund an AFIX project, which stands for assessment, feedback, incentive and exchange. It is a continuous quality improvement method that will be used in several clinics throughout North Dakota.

“HPV immunization rates in adolescents have historically been low in the United States and North Dakota – even when compared to other adolescent immunizations,” explained project manager Danielle Pinnick. “Our project is targeted specifically at improving those rates.”

According to Pinnick, an important aspect of the NDSU project is the use of an educational outreach method called “academic detailing.” Vaccine champions, specifically physicians trained to be HPV experts, will deliver peer-to-peer education to providers around the state, share peer-reviewed research and recommend ways to improve HPV immunization rates.

“This is an exciting project because it combines several tested methods of quality improvement to hopefully achieve the greatest outcome: more adolescents receiving the HPV vaccine,” said Pinnick, who recently earned her Master of Public Health at NDSU. “The more youth we get immunized against HPV, the fewer cases of cancer we will see in this population as they grow into adulthood.

“I want to see a day when HPV immunization is as much of a no-brainer as the tetanus booster kids receive at that age,” she said. Pinnick specialized in the management of infectious diseases as a student at NDSU.

The AFIX method is used throughout the country by health agencies to assess and assure high immunization coverage. Health department employees continuously check immunization rates at clinics using an immunization registry and assess the clinics for areas of improvement. Some of those areas include missed opportunities for immunization, improvements to electronic health records and tools to educate patients and caregivers about immunizations. AFIX coordinators deliver the assessment results to clinic staff and mutual goals are developed for improvement.

The anticipated long-term outcome of the project is to increase and sustain immunization coverage levels among adolescents, while decreasing morbidity and mortality caused by vaccine-preventable diseases.

“This grant pairs very nicely with a community grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation secured by my colleagues earlier this year,” Pinnick said. “The funds from the Prevent Cancer Foundation will allow us to visit more clinics around the state, and reach even more providers and nurses.”

In addition, the program will offer continuing medical education credits for physicians and continuing education credits for nurses.

The NDSU AFIX project runs through September 2018. It is project number FAR0026966.

The NDSU Center for Immunization Research and Education is led by director Paul Carson, professor of practice, and project manager Kylie Hall, BS '13, microbiology, MPH '15.

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