Novel Facebook Application Aims to Prevent Cervical Cancer.

nullA new Facebook application has been launched to help educate, motivate and mobilize people to prevent the spread of Humanpapilloma Virus (HPV). “Fact Check: HPV” (www.hpvfactcheck.org) allows users to take an interactive, educational quiz about HPV, find additional resources, and commit to take action, while even allowing concerned friends to anonymously share the application with peers.

According to a press release, the application was developed by Partnership for Prevention and the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies with input from the School of Public Health. The project was funded by the Fund to Prevent Cervical Cancer.

“Use of social networking sites has skyrocketed in the last few years, becoming an excellent channel to promote healthy behaviors,” said Robert J. Gould PhD, president of Partnership for Prevention. “Fact Check: HPV will harness the power of social media to increase awareness of this common sexually transmitted disease (STD).”

Use of social networking sites has quadrupled over the last four years from 8 percent in 2005 to over 35 percent in 2008. Over 75% of young adults, age 18-24, have a profile page, the vast majority of whom check it at least weekly.

“Young adults trust information recommended by friends, however, friends are often reticent to share information about stigmatized illnesses such as STDs, mental illnesses, or substance abuse. This project tests a novel strategy that spreads sensitive information through friendship networks, while still retaining anonymity.” said Derek L. Hansen, PhD, Assistant Professor at University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies. “It also helps us learn how the application spreads through the network and identify misperceptions about HPV based on quiz results.”

According to the press release, a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in four adolescent girls between the ages of 14-19, or 3.2 million teen girls, is infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases — (HPV, Chlamydia, Herpes, and Trichomoniasis). This study sheds new light on a chronic problem among adolescents in the United States — one that often receives little attention, in part, due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

STDs, the press release states, can result in serious health consequences when left untreated, including cervical cancer and infertility, and cost the U.S. health care system millions of dollars in medical expenses.

Partnership for Prevention is a membership organization of business, nonprofit and government leaders working to make evidence-based disease prevention and health promotion a national priority. More information is available at www.prevent.org .

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