Salon project aims at boosting HPV vaccinations

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; July 25, 2013

H-P-V is the virus that's linked to cervical cancer.

It is recommended that girls get three doses of the vaccine starting at age 11 or 12.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say MANY are NOT getting the message.

Only about 33-percent of girls are fully vaccinated.

Experts say if we get 80-percent covered, it will prevent 53-thousand cases of cervical cancer as the girls grow up.

They say the vaccine is safe, and doctors need to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

Meanwhile, a team at Jefferson University Hospital's Kimmel Cancer Center has just wrapped up a grass-roots project to get more girls vaccinated.

At the Unique Appeal salon on Market Street in West Philadelphia, there's no such thing as a quiet day.

Hair dryers, music, and conversations fill the air.

"There is a trusting bond between the stylist and the clients," says Pamela Weddington of MEE Productions, a partner in the project.

"They have conversations about really personal things," she says.

So at 16 salons in West & North philadelphia, they tapped into that trust, to spread the word about HPV.

Stylists were educated, so they could pass on the message.

"We're not asking them to be experts on HPV or cervical cancer, But what we want is for them to start the conversation," says Weddington.

There is no pressure to get the vaccine. Anyone wanting more information was directed to free informational meetings with Jefferson health educators, or urged to talk to their family health care provider.

But the stylists and salon owner were happy to help.

Rachelle Russell, the owner of Unique Appeal, told us, "I thought it was a great idea, because I always relate to the community."

Stylist Tameka Darjan says her clients welcomed the conversation.

"People want to know about it - it's important," she said.

Amy Leader, Ph.D., who led the study, said, "If we can education the women who are the mothers and the grandmothers and the caretakers, then they can make decisions for the family."

Study leaders are crunching the numbers to see if this effort makes a difference. If so, they hope to expand the program and bring it to other cities as well.

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