The HPV vaccine and the media: How has the topic been covered and what are the effects on knowledge about the virus and cervical cancer?
OBJECTIVE: In June 2006, the first vaccine for HPV was approved by the FDA and media coverage about the topic increased significantly. This study sought to explore the nature of the coverage and whether knowledge about HPV was affected by it. METHODS: A content analysis, including 321 news stories from major newspapers, the AP wire and television news networks was conducted. A monthly RDD-recruited Internet survey with a national sample (n=3323) was used to assess changes in population knowledge. RESULTS: Twenty-three percent of stories did not mention the sexually transmitted nature of the disease and 80% left out information about the need for continued cervical cancer screening after vaccination. Exposure to health-related media content was significantly associated with knowledge about HPV, even controlling for baseline knowledge (OR=1.62, 95% CI=1.12-2.35). CONCLUSIONS: Changes in the volume of coverage over time were associated with knowledge about HPV, but the content analysis reveals that many of the stories were missing important information. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Clinicians must consider the potential media source patients are using for HPV-related information in order to correct inaccurate or incomplete information that could affect health behavior.