When Erika Thompson, PhD, received an invitation to bring more life-saving vaccines to children and adolescents in North Texas, she leapt at the opportunity.
Thompson, an associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at The University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) School of Public Health at Fort Worth, learned about the All for Them mobile vaccination project during an HPV Vaccine Coalition meeting in Arlington, Texas.
“I was really excited to hear that there was a project working with school districts for HPV vaccination,” she said. “All for Them is innovative in how they bring together multiple stakeholders for the same goal and use a multi-pronged approach for messages to parents, school nurses, and the community.”
Paula Cuccaro, PhD, All for Them’s principal investigator, an assistant professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and a researcher at UTHealth’s Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, and Efrat Gabay, MPH, All for Them’s senior program manager, connected with Thompson while exploring the expansion of All for Them to more Texas school districts.
Houston-based team members had been traveling to coordinate clinics through a partnership with Fort Worth ISD and Christina Robinson, MD, director of The University of North Texas Health Science Center’ Pediatric Mobile Clinic program.
But establishing a local branch of the All for Them team in North Texas through Thompson and UNTHSC allowed the project to have a more consistent presence in the community — and serve more families. Thompson became an All for Them co-investigator and lead for the All for Them implementation team.
“I was thrilled to see additional resources come to North Texas for HPV vaccination efforts,” she said. “We have historically had lower HPV vaccination rates in our area, so adding All for Them as another layer of efforts is needed for our cancer prevention strategy.”
All for Them, an initiative run by UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, provides free vaccination clinics at middle and high schools in six public school districts: Aldine ISD, Crowley ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Goose Creek CISD, Houston ISD, and Spring ISD. The clinics, which are implemented in medically underserved schools, offer all childhood and adolescent vaccines — including the HPV vaccine, which protects against six types of cancer.
Since 2017, 6,040 students have received at least one vaccine during the 257 clinics that the All for Them team has coordinated and implemented across the state. Of those students, 4,130 received the HPV vaccine. Most of the students who did not receive the HPV vaccine were already up to date on the series, not yet due for the next dose at the time of the clinic, or not eligible for the vaccine. All for Them’s high HPV vaccine acceptance rate (96% of parents whose youths needed a vaccine dose) is a major accomplishment of the project’s approach.
At the Crowley ISD and Fort Worth ISD clinics in North Texas, 637 students have received at least one vaccine during the 27 clinics since 2021.
The partnership between UNTHSC and UTHealth Houston has been key to providing care for Texas students’ health both now and in the future.
“Being able to expand into the Tarrant County and North Texas area has given us the opportunity to make an impact on youth and families living in high-need areas of our state more effectively,” Gabay said. “It also allows us to see that our strategies can work in new communities.”
Implementing a project like All for Them in a new region can be challenging. The project got its start in Houston-area schools. New populations may require additional approaches — and close coordination from experts familiar with their needs.
“It was critical to work with partners who live in the community to ensure that we maximized our outreach activities and our implementation strategies were conducted effectively,” Cuccaro said. “The more we know about challenges and opportunities in different settings, the better we can prepare schools and providers to implement All for Them on their own.”
All for Them counts 20 team members, including co-investigators, research coordinators, and graduate research assistants, in addition to dozens of school district and community partners.
“For me, the highlight is being able to see our Houston and Fort Worth teams — field staff in particular — working together to address challenges and learn from each other,” Gabay said. “It’s also been exciting to have two wonderful graduate students from UNTHSC School of Public Health intern with us for this academic year.”
Cuccaro, Gabay, and Thompson look forward to opportunities for continuing All for Them’s work.
“I hope that this is just one of many partnerships between UTHealth and UNTHSC in the realm of cancer prevention,” Thompson said. “I just love working with the All for Them team. I couldn’t have asked for a better collaborator.”
All for Them is funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT PP200017 & PP170046). All for Them Crowley is supported by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Learn more about All for Them at AllForThemVaccines.com. Follow the project on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.