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Health Professions


Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Persistent infection with HPV can cause various cancers; however, HPV vaccination can prevent infections associated with high risk, cancerous strains of the virus. As it relates to HPV, college age men have been identified as one of the catch-up vaccination groups. Among college age men, gaming is an extremely popular extracurricular activity. Further, video games have emerged as a popular public health intervention tool. Therefore, this study aims to collect qualitative data on how to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a gaming intervention to increase HPV risk perceptions, improve self-efficacy and increase intention to receive the HPV vaccine among male college students (18–26 years old).

Methods: Four focus group sessions ranging from eight to ten individuals were conducted among male college students from one large research-intensive university in the South. Using grounded theory, data from focus group interviews were coded using NVivo software to identify emergent themes.

Results: Participants emphasized that although customization was not viewed as important by college aged males, the ability to tailor in game experiences or experience different things each time they played (creative freedom) was more important. They encouraged that the digital game be created on a mobile platform, incorporate health messages, and be informative to reach their population. Furthermore, they suggested innovative way to disseminate the game, which included having health department/health care providers prescribe the game to patients as an end of clinical interaction strategy.

Conclusions: College age men, are natural avid gamers, enjoy game play, and can engage in learning online or offline. While platform preference varies among gamer type, college age men in our study emphasized that mobile based gaming is the most advantageous way to increase knowledge/awareness and encourage positive in game behavior which can impact out of game behaviors such as vaccination. Because of the level of access and natural disposition of mHealth technology seen as an “extension of the self”, games for health developers should consider the mobile platform as the ideal for the target demographic.

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