HPV vaccine advocacy through art

March 1, 2024 by Tara Newton

Increasing HPV vaccine uptake in Kenya through art competitions.


PATH Living Labs sensitizing students at Arya Primary School in Kenya on HPV vaccine facts. Photo: PATH/Chris Obong’o.

As we celebrate HPV Awareness Day on March 4th, we are shining a light on unique approaches to sensitize more students, teachers, and parents of the importance of protection against human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer. HPV vaccine is given to 9- to 13-year-old adolescent girls, so it is often overlooked by caregivers as part of the childhood immunization schedule. Living Labs uses human-centered design (HCD) approaches to co-create and explore solutions in several areas, including demand-related challenges in immunization service delivery. One area of thematic focus recently included populations eligible for HPV vaccine.

Health care workers have told us they often have limited time to provide health education on HPV to students during school outreach. This has resulted in students having less information and then being hesitant to take the vaccine. Our Living Labs team, in collaboration with health care workers, community health promoters, and ministry of health officials in Kenya and Zambia, co-created several solutions to increase HPV vaccine uptake, including engaging religious leaders as advocates, updating communication methods to caregivers, and establishing girl-to-girl peer support groups to change misconceptions. However, one solution put the power of knowledge in the adolescent’s hands: HPV Vaccine Advocacy Through Art (HATA).

HPV vaccine advocacy through art


Students at Arya Primary School learn about HPV and the vaccine. PATH/Chris Obong’o

School competitions can be a useful way of raising awareness of certain issues that need the attention of teachers, parents, and students. Applying this method to HPV vaccine, our users co-created the HATA concept. First, we sensitized students and teachers and then rolled out an art competition in a few schools within a subcounty. This approach allowed students to show their knowledge to others and their parents by performing it through various art forms such as songs, poems, skits, spoken word, essays, and drawings or paintings.

In Kisumu and Turkana counties in Kenya, we piloted this solution in six intervention schools and two control schools targeting 1,443 adolescents along with 42 teachers, health care workers, community health promoters, and county health officials. Both boys and girls were encouraged to participate for the chance to win certificates and awards based on how well their art captured the knowledge gained from the school sessions.

“The HATA essay competition had a profound impact on the students’ perception of the HPV vaccine. Through research and passionate advocacy, they not only debunked myths about the vaccine but also inspired their peers to embrace it.”
— Teacher from Kisumu County



A teacher at Arya Primary School in Kenya sensitizing students on the HPV vaccine. Photo: PATH/Chris Obong’o.

The Living Labs team assessed health beliefs and intentions before and after the HATA pilot. We documented the impact of this concept in both control and intervention schools in terms of uptake. The results demonstrated significant increases in self-reported knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) scores between pretest and postintervention for the intervention schools compared to the control schools. In terms of vaccination uptake, the proportion of girls vaccinated with the first dose of HPV vaccine increased from 36 to 64 percent, while girls fully vaccinated with two doses increased from 40 to 60 percent across the schools and community units.

While we have more work to do to achieve the 90 percent coverage targets in Kenya and continue to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases in the country, we are excited by the progress made when embracing the ideas and energy of Kenya’s youth!

Learn more about Living Labs and other HPV vaccine work at PATH.