HPV Vaccine Promotion: The church as an agent of change

Soc Sci Med. 2021 Jan:268:113375. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113375. Epub 2020 Sep 18.


Vaccination to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and associated cancers has been recommended for use in the US since 2006; however, vaccine uptake remains suboptimal. Many sociodemographic factors have been evaluated with regard to HPV vaccine uptake but there has been less focus on the role of religion and religiosity. Our qualitative case study aimed to identify community perceptions of HPV and HPV vaccination via seven focus group discussions (FGDs) with leaders and members of an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in metro-Atlanta, Georgia from April 2018 to July 2018. A Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) conceptual framework was used to identify potential avenues to strengthen communication and health promotion strategies in the church community. Results showed diverse perceptions about HPV vaccine amongst the church community, ranging from viewing the HPV vaccine as essential to unnecessary for adolescents. Two key barriers to the HPV vaccine that may be addressed through the SBCC strategies were identified: 1) general mistrust in the healthcare system and 2) the expectation of abstinence among adolescents. For future HPV prevention opportunities, congregants highlighted they would be more receptive to receiving HPV vaccine promotion messages from pre-established trustworthy sources. Church leaders hold the trust of their congregation, therefore implementation of a church-based intervention utilizing the SBCC strategies has considerable potential to transform perceptions of the HPV vaccine and increase vaccination uptake. These findings may be implemented in future HPV vaccine promotion strategies within faith-based communities to promote safe and open dialogue for health communication messages to be disseminated in a familiar and trusted setting.

Keywords: Adolescent health; Cancer prevention; Church-based intervention; Focus group discussions; HPV vaccination; Human papillomavirus; Qualitative research; Religion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Georgia
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Vaccination


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines