Without Patient Stories, We Walk into a Firefight with a Calculator

Storytelling is powerful. Storytelling is compelling. In this age of social media, stories have evolved from words and pages to photos, memes and videos. Unfortunately, “anti-vaccination activists have weaponized stories and weaponized misinformation” and have used their stories to undermine the broader adoption of the HPV vaccine around the world.

Dr. Noel Brewer, chair of the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, shares why patient stories are essential to combating the anti-vaccination movement.

“Antivaccine activists rely on story telling. We scientists come back with statistics and numbers. While our statistics and facts may be true, they have little power in this arena. We walk into this firefight with a calculator.”

“In the real world, statistics and data don’t hold power, except on pages of a medical journal. What matters is people and their lived experience. Having powerful stories cuts through to what matters.”

Cervivor stories can help fight against the anti-vaccination narrative.

The power of the story in the hands of Cervivor can be used to grow cervical cancer awareness and expand HPV vaccination.

“Vaccine hesitancy is one of the global threats of public health. Legislators and policymakers increasingly seem to think vaccination is waning. That isn’t true. It’s just that the few anti-vaccine people are so loud. They have an outsized voice that is dangerous to the public’s health and well-being.” Their voice can cause people to hesitate, rather than to move forward with HPV vaccinations for their daughters and sons.

In the U.S., HPV vaccination is in fact drifting upward – around 66% of teens have had at least a dose, if not the full course, Dr. Brewer reports. “This is a big accomplishment. But our goal at the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable is to reach 80% having all the recommended doses. This vaccine will save tens of thousands of lives. It’s remarkable that people say ‘no’ to a cancer vaccine. The antivaccine movement and the stories and falsehoods they share play a role in that.”

We have to make our stories as loud and compelling as the stories of the anti-vaccine activists.

Dr. Brewer’s Advice to Cervivors: Have an Elevator Speech

“One thing I would encourage survivors to do: have the elevator speech of your story. There will be many many opportunities to tell your one minute version. It is not so often you have 20 minutes, or even five minutes. But when you introduce yourself, when you meet someone, when the opportunity arises, have your one minute story. Have a few different one minute versions of the different parts of your story. Talking about your lived experience is powerful, and you can have huge impact even in a short time frame.”

In fact, Dr. Brewer many times shares some of the one minute Cervivor Story videos on the CervivorTV Youtube channel. He and his colleagues have shown Lisa Moore’s video hundreds of times, at meetings all around the world, to focus audiences on “what really matters” when they are discussing the HPV vaccine. Lisa lost her life to cervical cancer in 2017, but her story has lived on in a hugely impactful way. All of our stories can have this impact too.

Do you have your elevator speech?

What will you share?

Tap in to Cervivor’s videos, resources and trainings to shape your story, enhance your advocacy and use your voice to end cervical cancer.

A professor of Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public, Dr. Noel Brewer studies health behaviors. He examines ways to increase HPV vaccine uptake, and his research led to the development of “The Announcement Approach” to train providers to communicate more effectively about HPV vaccination and other vaccines for adolescents. Dr. Brewer chairs the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, which brings a wide cross-section of stakeholders together to raise HPV vaccination rates and prevent HPV-related cancers.

It’s time to stop leaving women behind when it comes to cervical cancer screening – USA Today

March has been a crazy busy month for Cervivor and for the visibility of cervical cancer prevention. An international awareness day! An editorial in a national newspaper! A piece of legislation introduced in Congress! As the month draws to a close, here is a recap:

An International Awareness Day

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The month kicked off with International HPV Awareness Day on March 4. The day featured online events, press conferences, webinars and more taking place around the world.

The awareness day may have come and gone, but the International Papillomavirus Society, the official sponsors of the day, have terrific posters and visuals you can download and share at any time. Their graphics can be be a great addition to your social media feeds!

An Editorial in a National Newspaper: USA Today

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Also in March, USA Today featured an editorial on the importance of cervical cancer prevention co-authored by Cervivor founder Tamika Felder and Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., the founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research In Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center. The editorial highlighted the need for more proactive screening in uninsured/underserved communities and expressed frustration at the lowering of cervical cancer screening goals in the recently-released “Healthy People 2030” national public health initiative. The editorial offered a strong call to action: 

“Decades of groundbreaking research have provided the tools to eliminate cervical cancer. Yet, every two hours a woman in the U.S. dies of this preventable cancer. It is time to stop leaving women behind and work collectively to get every woman, regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, up to date with cervical cancer screening. Let’s create a national goal to achieve cervical cancer elimination, a strategy for the U.S. to accomplish this goal and a revision of the Healthy People 2030 objectives.”

Share the article on your social media feeds. Make sure to highlight your personal passion for this issue and your involvement with Cervivor!

Legislation Introduced in Congress

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The “Promoting Resources to Expand Vaccination, Education and New Treatments for HPV (PREVENT HPV) Cancers Act”  was introduced in Congress in March.  Cervivor was quoted in the press release announcing the bill. This legislation would, if enacted in the future, address many of the education and health equity needs surrounding cervical cancer prevention.

Our voices and our stories and our advocacy will be important to move this bill forward. The introduction of a piece of legislation is only the start of a long chain of legislative steps that can ultimately lead to bill passage (or not). Bill passage can take years. Bills can get folded into other legislation. Bills can get debated by committee but never elevated to the House or Senate floor for a vote. In this case, the bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, but so far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate. So there is a long road ahead… 

On the other hand, the introduction of a bill is itself a win! It means that members of Congress and their staff are paying attention to this issue, and Congressional attention can translate to media attention and enhanced media coverage. It means that there will be future conversations as the Congressional sponsors seek other co-signers and supporters. We at Cervivor, are in it for the long haul, advocating and  sharing our stories.