The National Association of County and City Health Officials notified Niagara County Department of Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton it awarded his department $35,000 to increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates.
NACCHO supports 2,800 local health departments across the country, helping to address public health challenges. Niagara County was one of only 10 local health departments nationwide selected to receive this award.
"HPV infections can lead to devastating cancers. We have a gold-standard vaccine that can prevent HPV infection, especially if administered before young people become sexually active," Stapleton said. "HPV is easily transmitted from infected individuals to others through sexual contact. Prevention through vaccination and education about abstaining from unprotected sex are key to our public health mission to reduce sexually transmitted infections and cancer rates in Niagara County.
"Most importantly, success of this initiative is dependent upon the partnership we share with providers, parents and educators in the communities we serve. In this partnership, we can all work together to recognize the extent and magnitude of the HPV threat, and by adopting good policies, practices and actions, we can thwart it."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,200 HPV-associated cancers occur in the U.S. each year, with about 20,600 among females, and about 12,600 among males. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among women. Oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are the most common among men. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90 percent of anal and cervical cancers, about 70 percent of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and more than 60 percent of penile cancers. Cancers of the head and neck are mostly caused by tobacco and alcohol, but recent studies show that about 70 percent of cancers of the oropharynx may be linked to HPV (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/).
"Receipt of this award demonstrates recognition of our nursing division efforts to assure our communities have the best resources available for reducing STI and living healthy," Stapleton said.
With the support of NACCHO, the Niagara County Department of Health Division of Nursing will seek to engage and collaborate with health care providers and community leaders to increase HPV vaccination rates across the county. Current HPV immunization rates in Niagara County are low; 39 percent of Niagara County adolescents have started the HPV vaccine series, and only 22 percent have completed it.
The goal of this award is to strengthen and share the message that HPV vaccine can help prevent cancer, the department said.