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Raising awareness about HPV vaccinations

Alvin Chan, a fourth-year medical student at the UC Irvine School of Medicine
UC Irvine School of Medicine
Medical student Alvin Chan developed an innovative way to get the HPV vaccination message out to the Latino community.

Medical student creates a comic book campaign to educate Latinos

Fourth-year medical student Alvin Chan is taking a novel approach to raise HPV awareness — a comic novel approach.

Chan and his colleagues have created and evaluated a fotonovela, a photographic comic book format popular among Latinos, to raise awareness and improve acceptance of human papillomavirus vaccination in the United States, particularly among Latinos.

The study, conducted at the UC Irvine Health Family Health Center in Santa Ana, was supported by the Institute for Clinical & Translational Science. Study results appear in the open access BioMed Central ›

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Although HPV vaccines have been on the market for nearly a decade to protect against HPV-related warts and cancers, vaccination rates remain low, particularly among Latinos, who already suffer disproportionately high rates of HPV disease. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that in California, only 48 percent of females and 31 percent of males received all three doses of the HPV vaccine series. 

To promote HPV vaccine acceptance, Chan and his colleagues created a bilingual English and Spanish-language fotonovela, formatted with photographs and text bubbles into a comic book-style soap opera.

The fotonovela aims not only to educate adolescent and young adult readers about the benefits of vaccination, but also to encourage dialogue about HPV prevention between patients and healthcare providers. The study demonstrated that a fotonovela can be used as an educational-entertainment tool to impact HPV vaccine knowledge, attitudes and intentions. 

Chan explains the project:

Fotonovelas are commonly used public health tools in the Latino community. What makes this one on HPV distinctive?

Fotonovelas are innovative, public health tools that cross unique language and cultural barriers in Latino communities. The reason fotonovelas work particularly well in educating Hispanics about healthcare is because they are so highly entertaining and dramatic. They often involve suspense, comedy and romance, all of which our fotonovela contains. While there are other HPV fotonovelas out there, what makes ours unique is that it highlights the necessity of HPV vaccination for boys as well as for individuals in committed relationships.

What is your clinical interest in this area?

I am a passionate advocate for vaccines. Vaccines are safe, effective and cost-efficient ways to dramatically reduce disease and improve the health of all socioeconomic groups. As a healthcare provider, I want to make sure everyone has enough knowledge about vaccines to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their children.

What is the status of your fotonovela?

Currently, I am working with the California Department of Public Health to have the fotonovela disseminated on its website. My next plan is to secure funding in order to distribute hard copies of the fotonovela to clinics across California. In the future, I want to create an audio version of the fotonovela.

— Tom Vasich / UC Irvine Strategic Communications