Indigenous influencers use TikTok to increase HPV vaccination uptake

TikTok content creators and brothers Sam and Ben Stubbs. Photo: ECU

Delivering health promotion through social media platforms is one of the latest tools increasingly being used to empower people to take ownership and control of their health.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers have joined ranks with Indigenous TikTok influencers in workshops aimed to help increase human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates among Aboriginal youth.

Data from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance show that many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not receive their HPV vaccine doses, resulting in missed opportunities to be protected from HPV and HPV-related cancers.

“More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are not getting the vaccine, so we have created a brand and are using social media platforms to promote the importance of getting the vaccination,” said ECU researcher Associate Professor Natalie Strobel.

TikTok content creators and brothers Sam and Ben Stubbs engaged a group of young Aboriginal people aged 12-15 years on how to create their own social media content. Sam and Ben, both affectionately known as ‘Stubbers’, have collectively amassed over 500,000 followers on TikTok.

TikTok content creators and brothers Sam and Ben Stubbs. Photo: ECU

“At the end of the day we want all our families to live long and healthy lives, and to do that we got to learn to make healthy decisions,” said Sam.

Workshop participants learnt how to develop and create TikTok messages for themselves that can inspire others to make good decisions when it comes to their health, like getting the HPV vaccination,” said ECU’s A/Prof Strobel.

A/Prof Strobel is a fulltime researcher in the Maladjiny Research Centre within Kurongkurl Katitjin. Her research project Improving HPV vaccination rates for Aboriginal young people through social media, explores how combining co-created health promotion messages from young Aboriginal people with ‘micro-Influencers’ can improve HPV vaccination rates.

The brand launch will coincide with the start of secondary school in 2024.

“There is an HPV vaccine that children in Year 7 can get for free, it’s a one-off vaccination and the international evidence shows that deadly cancers, like cervical cancer, are declining significantly because of it,” A/Prof Strobel said.

Ben Stubbs. Photo: ECU

“What we hope to see in the future is improvements in HPV vaccination for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people as a result of this campaign and we’ll be watching closely to see if this happens.”

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