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Kelley Professor to Examine How Women Respond to Information About the HPV Vaccine

Anthony Cox
Anthony Cox Dena S. Cox
Dena S. Cox

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September 21, 2011

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Dena S. Cox, professor of marketing and faculty fellow at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, has received a $99,600, two-year research grant from Merck to study factors influencing young women’s adoption of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Professor Cox’s research investigates how people make medical-treatment decisions, examining the effects of health communication on consumers' adoption of preventive behaviors. In this study, she is exploring the most effective ways to present information to women ages 18 to 26 about the benefits and risks of the HPV vaccine.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people with the virus do not develop symptoms or health problems. However, some HPV types can cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

In her study, Cox will employ a nationwide, Internet survey panel to recruit young women who have not received the HPV vaccine. She will present them with information on vaccination benefits and risks, in a variety of presentation formats. The study will then assess the women's understanding of this information, their attitudes and intentions toward vaccination and (six months later) their vaccination behavior. The study seeks to determine which presentation formats are most helpful to young women in making informed decisions about HPV vaccination.

“Medical information often is complex,” said Cox. “How you frame the information and its personal impact will influence the way people think and behave. We believe that the more an individual processes and understands the information, the more likely she is to participate in a healthy action, like HPV vaccination.”

Each year, about 12,000 women in the U.S. get cervical cancer, and about 4,000 die from the disease. Cervical cancer largely is preventable through Pap screening tests and the HPV vaccination. However, healthy women in their late teens and early 20s may not consider themselves at risk. Cox’s study will help health care professionals better communicate with young women about the risks of cervical cancer and the importance of preventive measures, including HPV vaccination.

This is Professor Cox’s second research grant from Merck. Her co-investigators on this study include Anthony Cox, Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow and professor of marketing at Kelley, and Gregory Zimet, professor of pediatrics and co-leader of the Cancer Control program in the IU School of Medicine.