The Duke Endowment partnered with the Guilford County Department of Public Health in Greensboro, N.C., to provide information to the community about the Human Papillomavirus and the HPV vaccine. In January 2008, Brenda Stubbs was hired as lead health educator for the project.
Through the Endowment grant, Stubbs provided education to health care workers, parents and school personnel at the middle grade level. She spent her first year on the job designing and presenting educational seminars to health and youth-oriented organizations in the community, as well as school groups.
In May 2009, the Guilford County Board of Education voted to allow school-site clinics to offer the HPV vaccine to middle school girls during the 2009-2010 school year. The Guilford County Department of Public Health conducted the clinics, which were held on campuses after school hours.
An Interview with a Community Health Educator
Stubbs talked about her work in the following interview, which took place in 2008.
What are the parts to this HPV education program?
The first phase had the theme "Don't Wait, Educate!" We created a 30-minute slideshow presentation about HPV: how you get it, who can get it, what it causes, how you can prevent it, and other important facts and statistics about the virus and the vaccine. The second phase has the theme "Don't Wait, Vaccinate!"
What's the goal?
Our ultimate goal is to reduce HPV infection in our community by educating parents and giving them the tools to make an informed decision about getting their child vaccinated.
When the health department received the grant, an HPV Grant Advisory Team was formed. Who serves on that team?
We have a grant manager, plus several health care professionals on our advisory team—a local OB/GYN, immunization nurses, school nurses, and an epidemiologist. We also have a PTA Council member and a senior officer from the school system, as well as a media specialist.
What activities went on during the first phase of the grant?
Our HPV education focused on three main groups.
- We focused on other health care workers with an interest in youth—for example, school health nurses, pediatric groups and medical societies, congregational nurses, and health educators for the Family Life Council.
- The second group was middle school faculty and staff, and we have provided education seminars in about 14 middle schools in our county.
- Third, and perhaps most important, has been educating parents—and, when we had the opportunity, educating the pre-teens themselves. We worked with the PTAs to set up parent seminars in the schools, and we did presentations to youth-oriented community groups.
The director of one group, Teens Taking Action, has invited us to present at several events for pre-teens and teens. We designed an HPV bingo game and lesson plan specifically for youth groups that is both fun and educational. Another program, Smart Girls, holds several mother-daughter events through the year, and we have presented at three of those. They are great events, because usually about 300 moms and daughters attend together, which is wonderful because our goal is not just to educate the parents, but to open up a dialogue between parents and kids.
We also worked with our local Girl Scouts Council to provide education to moms and daughters.
How many people have you reached through education events?
More than 3,500.
Are events always well attended?
We have created all sorts of marketing tools and flyers that we consistently use to promote our presentations, and we rely heavily on the media .... But it can be very frustrating because many middle school parents just don't seem to stay involved like they do at the elementary school level.
We try to tag our presentation onto something else that is already scheduled at the school to help draw the parents out. But we've held presentations where three parents show up—and ones where 85 parents show up.
It's a little frustrating because at the end of every event, a parent will come up to me and say, "Oh, my gosh. I had no idea. This has been so enlightening. I wish more parents had come." There are a lot of facts about HPV that parents are floored to find out about.
What do you tell parents about the vaccine?
I tell the parents that I understand this can be a sensitive topic to discuss with their children, but it doesn't have to be a scary one. Parents need to educate themselves about HPV so they can be the credible source of information for their children.
HPV is an epidemic in our country, but it's not a disease of promiscuity. Vaccinating their 11- to 12-year-old daughter against HPV is not about giving her permission to have sex, it's about safeguarding her future health.
The HPV vaccine has been proven safe and effective, and while it is relatively new, the technology behind it and the way that it is created is the same technology behind other vaccines that have been given for decades.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I graduated from Appalachian State University in 1990 as a broadcasting and marketing major, but I never went into that field. I started (at Wake Forest Medical Center) in alumni and special events planning. From there, I moved to program coordination with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, then I became an area director at the American Heart Association. From there, I went to the Children's Hospice here in Guilford County, which was a job that changed my life forever.
How long have you worked for the health department?
In total, for about four and a half years. I was program coordinator for about three years for the Adopt-A-Mom program, which provides prenatal care for medically indigent women in our county. I took some time off to be a mommy, then came back to the Health Department when I was hired for the HPV grant program.
What drew you to this job?
I'm very interested in community education and working in the schools and with kids. I also have had personal experience with several friends who have had HPV. When I first started talking about this grant, it was around the time when all the Gardisil commercials were hitting the TV and I realized that a lot of people did not know about HPV. I felt this would be a groundbreaking opportunity to provide information to the parents in our community.
Lin B. Hollowell III
Director of Health Care