Perceptions of HPV and cervical cancer among haitian immigrant women: Implications for vaccine acceptability

E. Kobetz, J. Menard, G. Hazan, T. Koru-Sengul, T. Joseph, J. Nissan, B. Barton, J. Blanco, J. Kornfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Introduction: Women in Haiti and throughout the Haitian Diaspora shoulder a disproportionate burden of cervical cancer morbidity and mortality. The widespread Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination holds promise for helping to attenuate this disparity. However, previous research has not fully examined Haitian women's perceptions of, and barriers to, HPV vaccination, which is essential for informing future intervention. The current paper aims to fill this gap. Methods: As part of ongoing Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) efforts, we conducted a series of focus groups with Haitian immigrant women in Little Haiti, the predominantly Haitian neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. Focus group questions assessed women's knowledge and beliefs about cervical cancer and HPV, their opinions of vaccines in general, their knowledge and perceptions of the HPV vaccine specifically and health communications preferences for cervical cancer prevention. Results: Among the participants who had heard of HPV, many held misconceptions about virus transmission and did not understand the role of HPV in the development of cervical cancer. Virtually all participants expressed support for vaccines in general as beneficial for health. Some women had heard of the HPV vaccine, primarily as the result of a contemporary popular media campaign promoting the Gardasil ® vaccine. Physician recommendation was commonly mentioned as a reason for vaccination, in addition to having more than one sex partner. Women felt the HPV vaccine was less appropriate for adolescent girls who are presumed as not sexually active. Women indicated a strong preference to obtain health information through trusted sources, such as Haitian physicians, Haitian Community Health Workers, and especially Kreyol-language audiovisual media. Discussion: Study findings indicate a need for culturally and linguistically appropriate educational initiatives to promote awareness of HPV and its role in cervical cancer, the importance of vaccination against the virus, explicitly differentiating HPV from HIV and providing specific information about vaccine safety. Conclusion: In the U.S., there is a substantial lack of educational information available in Haitian Kreyol about HPV and cervical cancer. This gap results in missed opportunities to promote disease prevention through vaccination and regular screening. Addressing such gaps is essential for achieving health equity among Haitian immigrant women and other, similarly underserved women, who are disproportionately burdened by cervical cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalEducation for Health: Change in Learning and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Community-based participatory research (CBPR)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Immigrant women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Education


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