01/31/2012  |  Posted By:

A little more than a year ago, Jennifer Ludden reported on behalf of National Public Radio that “in the face of a persistent gender pay gap, the reason women make less money than men is because they do not ask for raises.”

The need to ask in order to improve a woman’s life however is not exclusive to one’s finances.  Organizations like the National Council of Women’s Organizations recommend that women 30 and over ask their doctors for the HPV test, a screening tool that helps detect the human papillomavirus.

The reason for the “asking” is because doctors do not automatically administer the test during gynecological appointments as they still rely on the Pap test to screen for abnormal cells that can lead to cervical cancer.  This is reflective in articles based on the topic.

With January being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, many publications ranging from USA Today to the Chicago Tribune covered the importance of cervical cancer screening and only mentioned the Pap test as the screening tool for cervical cancer prevention.

Though the Pap test is an important test and has helped save lives since the 1940s, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, one-third of cervical cancer cases occur due to Pap failure in missing cells.  And last year, a Lancet Oncology study found that the combination of the Pap test and the HPV test has a 25 percent more chance to find abnormal cells than the Pap test alone.

Though many studies similar to these have spread through the medical world, women’s health advocates need to take action to elevate this issue.  One of the best ways to do this is through social media.  This way we can strengthen the “ask” message, particularly to empowered patients.

Below are recommended tips for the pro-HPV testing community to integrate social media into communications outreach.  These steps can be replicated for other health campaigns where education needs to be increased and patients informed.

  • Reach out to writers: Websites allow more room for correcting and modifying content than traditional letter-to-the editor sections. 
    • Particularly by commenting under a news article and reaching out to the author with information, you can correct misinformation and be seen as a resource for future stories.

  • Generate credible content: Write blog posts or Google+ updates that talk about how women need to be advocates for their health and ask for the HPV test.  On these platforms, be sure to include recent clinical studies or news from respected healthcare professionals and associations, as done above.
    • Especially when using Google+, it is imperative to consistently produce content, to help search engine optimization and improve relevance of visitors to your site.

  • Help spread news: Utilize platforms like twitter to help spread important news and interact with other interested parties in “real time.”  This platform is especially useful for highlighting ideas and passing along breaking stories.
    • For twitter, by adding in hashtags like #cervicalcancer or #HPV it will make it easy to find others interested in the same issue.

By integrating techniques such as these into campaign efforts, awareness of important women’s health issues like asking for the HPV test can be heightened.  Hopefully, these strategies can also enable the CDC to close the gap on its recent goals of the number of women to be screened for cervical cancer, and women’s health advocates can push these issues to the point that asking will no longer be necessary.