According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer adolescents living in rural communities have received the meningococcal conjugate vaccine and HPV vaccine than those living in urban communities.

The difference is even larger in Wisconsin.

The HPV vaccine helps to prevent cancers caused by an HPV infection including cervical and oropharyngeal cancer, and the meningococcal vaccine prevents against meningitis, a life-threatening illness. These vaccines are recommended for all adolescents at 11-12 years of age.

Huong McLean, Ph.D., a researcher with the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, is leading a study aimed at increasing adolescent vaccination rates among adolescents living in rural areas.

“It is a multi-part study. The main reason for the difference is not known. We first need to find out why there is this disparity in coverage between rural and urban areas. Based on what we find, we will design an intervention and test to see if it increases vaccination rates,” said McLean.

Marshfield Clinic Health System has been actively working to increase their adolescent vaccination rates, particularly for the HPV vaccine.

“Over the past few years, our HPV vaccination rates have improved significantly,” said Penny Funk, clinical quality nurse with IQIPS at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We continue to work on meeting the goals set by Healthy People 2020.”

McLean’s three-year study is sponsored by the CDC and will work with the Wisconsin and Minnesota health departments. The Research Institute is one of three institutions awarded this grant.

McLean plans to focus on understanding reasons for the difference by surveying parents of adolescents and providers in rural and urban areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In the second and third year, McLean will roll out an intervention and track its success.

For more information about adolescent vaccinations, click here.