#WATCHYOURMOUTH Campaign Featured Nationally

The United States Public Health Services Chief Dental Officer newsletter featured an article about the Oral Cancer Awareness Campaign #WATCHYOURMOUTH, a collaborative campaign between the Oral Health Office and the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute, in its July 1 issue.

What if there were a cure for cancer?

What if there were no need for one?

The HPV-9 vaccine protects against 9 types of HPV which causes most cancers, including both cervical and oropharyngeal. While its efficacy is irrefutable, much of the population, as well as many providers, are unaware of the vaccine’s cancer prevention effectiveness. The need to provide education about the vaccine to increase vaccine uptake forged a formidable partnership between two organizations determined to lessen the (current) incidence (12th) and mortality rates (3rd) of these cancers in Alabama.

In 2018, Tommy Johnson, DMD, Alabama Department of Public Health Oral Health Office, and Casey L. Daniel, PhD, MPH, University of Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute, met when attending an Alabama Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition meeting. Immediately, the common goal to promote the HPV vaccine, focusing particularly on HPV-related cancers of the oral cavity and head and neck, was acknowledged. The culmination of efforts resulted in a medical-dental integration campaign known as #WATCHYOURMOUTH!

The campaign features a multifactorial approach targeting dental and medical providers, as well as the general population. Example components of the campaign include: Proclamation signed by Governor; direct mail outs to Alabama dentists and hygienists; dental professional CE credit development; Light Up Alabama Red!, illuminating buildings and other facilities throughout Alabama in red; statewide Spectrum commercial; “My Story” video by Pat Sullivan, oral cancer survivor; tee-shirts and wristbands for UAB dental students, faculty, and ADPH staff emphasizing HPV awareness; and armbands worn by a Minor League baseball team in Birmingham, Alabama. The campaign garnered the attention of the recombinant human papillomavirus (HPV) nonvalent vaccine manufacturer vaccine manufacturer resulting in national and state organization referrals with whom to share our efforts.

For more information, please email Tommy.Johnson@adph.state.al.us or cldaniel@health.southalabama.edu.