CenCal Health Earns National Recognition for HPV Vaccination Education

Local Health Plan Receives Innovation Award for Cancer Prevention Initiative

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recently presented a 2021 NCQA Innovation Award to CenCal Health for its bilingual Know More: HPV – Improving Vaccination Uptake and Closing Health Disparities With a Digital Patient Intervention. The in-office patient intervention supports the public health goal to increase vaccination rates to prevent infection from the human papillomavirus or HPV. The unique strategy consists of a digital program that interactively provides health information on HPV and the need to vaccinate adolescents. Citing CenCal Health’s commitment to advancing health care quality and addressing population health needs, NCQA credited the Know More: HPV campaign with “improving vaccination uptake and closing health disparities.” CenCal Health is one of only three awardees selected among more than 40 applicants nationwide.

CenCal Health had earlier identified a geographic health disparity in HPV vaccination rates among its membership; north Santa Barbara County had an HPV vaccination rate of 48.72% while the south Santa Barbara County rate was only 31.03%. To address this gap in care, CenCal Health worked with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics to identify Medi-Cal plan members ages 11-12 who were due for one or more HPV vaccines, and provided them and their parents with the digital program, which can be viewed on any smart device, while they were in the clinic.

HPV annually infects 14 million people and causes more than 33,000 people in the U.S. to develop cancer each year. Though the vaccine helps prevent infections that can lead to numerous types of cancer, historically HPV vaccination rates have been lower than most other routine vaccines. In 2020, the rate of adolescents who had received at least one HPV vaccine dose was 75.1%, but only 58.6% of teens were considered up to date with HPV vaccinations. In comparison, the rate of adolescents who had received at least one dose of two other vaccines recommended for the same age range – Tdap and meningococcal – was nearly 90% for both, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CenCal Health collaborated with the American Cancer Society to develop the digital learning tool that educates families about HPV vaccination at a critical moment – when the child is at the doctor’s office. It also gives health providers and parents a starting point to discuss vaccination during the visit. Produced in-house by CenCal Health, Know More: HPV includes a slideshow, Q&A and video in both English and Spanish.

“It was a pleasure to support the CenCal Health team in their efforts to increase HPV vaccination rates in Santa Barbara County,” said America Cancer Society’s Raquel Arias, MPH. “The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that helps prevent six types of cancer later in life. We applaud CenCal Health for using innovative strategies to ensure that all parents are offered this life-saving vaccine for their children.”

CenCal Health’s Population Health Supervisor Rachel Ponce and Health Promotion Supervisor Gabriela Labraña will present the award-winning initiative during the 2022 Quality Innovation Series. This national conference will include over 20 presentations from NCQA leadership and staff, external subject matter experts, thought leaders and accelerators outlining best practices for advancing the quality playbook.

In 2019, the State of California’s Department of Health Care Services also awarded CenCal Health with an Innovation Award for this health care improvement initiative. “I am immensely proud of this cancer-preventing work by our Population Health and Health Education teams,” said CenCal Health CEO Marina Owen. “With national and state recognition, we will be able to share – with both the healthcare industry and the public at-large – an innovative solution to educating families on the importance of HPV vaccination.”

Know More: HPV videos are available at and in Spanish at For more information on CenCal Health, visit

About NCQA

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA accredits and certifies a wide range of health care organizations. It also recognizes clinicians and practices in key areas of performance. NCQA’s Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) is the most widely used performance measurement tool in health care. NCQA’s website ( contains information to help consumers, employers and others make informed health care choices.

About CenCal Health

CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to more than 210,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. View its annual Community Report at

Media Contact: Sheri Mobley (805) 845-5627, 213 509-9816

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