What Parents Think about HPV: A Comparison of Knowledge and Attitudes Among American and Italian Parents

Authors: Miller C, Guidry, J, and Lovari, A

Category: Behavioral Science & Health Communication
Conference Year: 2020

Abstract Body:
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine awareness of and knowledge and attitudes about the human papilloma virus (HPV) among parents in the United States (US) and Italy (ITL). Methods: A vaccine against most HPV infections that lead to cancer has been introduced in over 80 countries. Despite the benefits of the HPV vaccine, uptake in the US remains suboptimal. Rates in Italy are even lower. To better understand these contexts and inform future interventions, we assessed awareness, knowledge, and attitudes related to the HPV vaccine via a Qualtrics survey. After providing a description of HPV/HPV vaccine, awareness was assessed with, “Before today, had you ever heard of the HPV vaccine?” Three items measured HPV vaccine- related knowledge (True/False): HPV can cause cervical cancer, Males cannot get HPV, and HPV vaccines are most effective if given to people who have never had sex. Attitudes were reported on a 5-point scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree), with lower scores indicating positive intentions (e.g. If my doctor thinks it's a good idea, I would have a child of mine vaccinated against HPV, There is less risk involved in being vaccinated than in having HPV). Results: N=262 American and N=262 Italian parents of children age ≤10 years were obtained in September 2019. Respondents were an average age of 36-39 years old, mostly female (70.6% vs. 61.8%) and predominately White (80.5% and 97.7% in the US and ITL, respectively). The proportions of those married (80.5% vs. 93.9%) and with college degrees (40.5% vs 42.7%; US and ITL, respectively) were similar. Both American and Italian parents were aware of the HPV vaccine, with high proportions reporting having heard of the HPV vaccine (87.4%; US and 72.1%; ITL). Nearly two-thirds of Americans (60.1%) responded to all three knowledge items accurately, compared to 10.7% of Italians. Attitudes toward HPV vaccination were positive in both countries, with average agreement ratings of 2.21 (sd=1.09) and 2.29 (sd=0.84) in the US and Italy, respectively. Conclusions: Results characterize two diverse populations and will inform the development of future HPV awareness and prevention messages. Future public health campaigns are needed to improve knowledge related to HPV prevention.

Keywords: health behaviors, cancer prevention, HPV, vaccine