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Human papillomavirus (HPV) information needs: a theoretical framework
  1. Laura A V Marlow, MSc, Researcher1,
  2. Jane Wardle, PhD, Professor and Director of the HBRC1,
  3. Jo Waller, PhD, Senior Researcher1,
  4. Nina Grant, MSc, Researcher2
  1. Health Behaviour Research Centre (HBRC), Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Laura Marlow, Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. E-mail: l.marlow{at}


Background With the introduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing and vaccination in the UK, health professionals will start to receive questions about the virus from their patients. This study aimed to identify the key questions about HPV that British women will ask when considering having an HPV test or vaccination.

Methods Face-to-face interviews were carried out with 21 women to discover what they wanted to know about HPV. A thematic framework approach was used to analyse the data and identify key themes in women's HPV knowledge requirements.

Results Women's questions about HPV fell into six areas: identity (e.g. What are the symptoms?), cause (e.g. How do you get HPV?), timeline (e.g. How long does it last?), consequences (e.g. Does it always cause cervical cancer?) and control-cure (e.g. Can you prevent infection?). In addition, they asked procedural questions about testing and vaccination (e.g. Where do I get an HPV test?). These mapped well onto the dimensions identified in Leventhal's description of lay models of illness, called the 'Common Sense Model' (CSM).

Discussion and conclusions These results indicated that the majority of the questions women asked about HPV fitted well into the CSM, which therefore provides a structure for women's information needs. The findings could help health professionals understand what questions they may be expected to answer. Framing educational materials using the CSM themes may also help health educators achieve a good fit with what the public want to know.

  • cervical cancer
  • HPV
  • lay models
  • qualitative research
  • sexual health

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