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Partnering to Reduce Risk of Hepatitis C Virus in College Students

As part of an existing partnership, California State University, Sacramento (CSUC) and the University of California, Davis (UCD) collaborated on a 2008 research project aimed at cancer education, outreach and research, with the purpose of developing a bi-campus awareness campaign to reduce hepatitis C virus (HCV) risk in college students.

Nationally, HCV accounts for approximately one-third of liver cancer cases and is the most common chronic blood-borne viral infection. Although estimates indicate that by 2021 more people will die annually from HCV than AIDS, prevention efforts to reduce HCV incidence are far less than for HIV/AIDS. Given the lack of awareness about HCV, U.S. undergraduates are in danger of acquiring it.

As a first step in the CSUS/UCD project, a research team studied 224 college students to determine their risk-taking behaviors, awareness of HCV, and successful educational approaches. The joint effort included study design, development of research instruments (survey), analysis of final results, and dissemination of results via intercampus meetings.

Community partners, including the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, The Alliance of Professional Tattooers and the Association of Professional Piercers, served as advisers on the /CSUS/UCD Cancer Partnership Board. The partners and several student groups provided ongoing input and feedback on the research design and findings: UCD young cancer survivor board, college interns, Colleges vs. Cancer Clubs and Public Health Clubs at both campuses.

The partners also developed a social marketing campaign to increase awareness of HCV risks. This campaign included print and visual materials, a website (, public service announcements, a media launch, and a statewide Hep C meeting. Faculty worked with the students to assure that the materials were appropriate for their student peers. Multiple focus groups and meetings were held over a period of a year on the exact details, colors and presentation of campaign materials.

Activities benefit the students by increased HCV risk awareness and the experience they gained through their involvement in the project. Project partners intend to take the CSUS/UCD awareness campaign statewide. Lessons learned include the difficulty in collaborations between a research based institution and a service oriented one; balancing the funding of project efforts; and semester versus quarter timeline issues.

Heather Diaz, Kinesiology and Health Sciences
California State University, Sacramento

Paul King, The Association of Professional Piercers
Mike Martin, The Alliance of Professional Tattooers
Marlene von Friederichs-Fitzwater, University of California, Davis
Patty Woodard, California State University, Sacramento

Key words: Northern California, undergraduate students, Sacramento, health/health education/health disparities, social media, internship

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Last Updated: May 06, 2016