The importance of coherently understanding cervical cancer vaccination: factors associated with young Australian women’s uptake of the HPV vaccine

Kerry A. Sherman, Christopher J. Kilby, Danielle Moore, Laura-Kate Shaw

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Background: Cervical cancer vaccination is efficacious and widely available, yet uptake is less than optimal, even in countries such as Australia that provide government-funded vaccination programmes. Effective communication strategies are needed for presenting Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine-related information in a format that enhances understanding about the vaccine, and ultimately, uptake of the vaccine. Using the Common Sense Model framework, we aimed to assess the role of illness coherence in women’s decisions to undergo the vaccine. As a secondary aim, we piloted a communication strategy entailing the provision of Disease Risk-Action Link information about the links between HPV, cervical cancer, and vaccination on women’s cervical cancer illness coherence.

Methods: In total, 132 young Australian women (18–26 years old) completed online surveys measuring illness coherence, vaccine status, intentions to undergo vaccination, and medical/demographic variables. Women who had not undergone vaccination were then randomised to receive either a brief or detailed information message about cervical cancer. Messages varied by the extent of detail (brief vs. detailed) providing Disease Risk-Action Link information about the link between the action of the vaccine, the HPV, and cervical cancer. Next, illness coherence was re-assessed.

Results: ANOVA results suggested that women who were vaccinated reported higher levels of illness coherence. Linear regression analyses indicated that, in non-vaccinated women, illness coherence was significantly associated with intentions to vaccinate. ANCOVA analysis indicated that non-vaccinated women assigned to the detailed message condition reported greater increases in illness coherence compared to those assigned to the brief message condition.

Conclusion: Illness coherence appears to be an important factor in actual vaccination uptake and intentions to vaccinate. The experimental informational message manipulation further demonstrated that the provision of detailed messages highlighting the Disease-Risk-Action Links in the cervical cancer context can promote illness coherence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-371
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Psychology and Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Cervical cancer
  • HPV vaccine
  • common sense model
  • illness coherence
  • informational experiment


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