Oral Health Literacy and HPV: An Unrecognized Risk for College Students




Griner, Stacey
Monroy, Edward


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Purpose: Oral health literacy is the ability to use information to make informed health decisions and has been proven to be an emerging risk factor for several health outcomes. Oral health literacy remains understudied, especially among sub-populations including college students and in regard to more complex health topics, such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is associated with over 70% of oral cancers in the United States, but little research exists exploring oral health literacy related to HPV. Therefore, this study aimed to understand college students' oral health literacy related to HPV and oral cancers. Methods: An online quantitative survey (n=104) was administered at a university in southern Florida to collect information on students' oral health knowledge, prevention behaviors, and oral health literacy skills (find, understand, appraise, judge, and decide). Patient demographic information was also collected. Results: Most students found it very easy to find information about oral health and about preventing negative health outcomes. However, a third found it difficult to find information about preventing oral cancers, and 30% found it difficult to understand oral cancer prevention. Additionally, 41% of students found it difficult or very difficult to judge their risk for HPV-related oral cancers. Conclusions: Most college students find it very easy to find oral health information overall, however, there are substantial gaps accessing, understanding, and applying information pertaining to the prevention of HPV and oral cancers. These results suggest HPV education and awareness should be a targeted area for future health campaigns towards college students.