Rapid Fire Session 2014 World Cancer Congress

Preventing cervical cancer in Karen women - A peer education project (#365)

Lucy Forwood 1
  1. Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Background and Context: This colourful and inspiring presentation provides conference delegates with knowledge and tools of how to engage hard to reach communities with cancer prevention messages.
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds face a multitude of barriers to cervical screening and are less likely to be screened. In 2013, PapScreen Victoria designed and delivered a highly innovative peer education project to increase cervical cancer prevention awareness among women who have recently arrived in Australia. The project was underpinned by health promotion principles with a commitment to reducing health inequalities in a marginalised refugee community.

Aim: Increase awareness of cervical cancer prevention among Karen women from Burma.

Strategy/Tactics: The peer education model was an effective method to increase awareness of cancer screening. The project successfully built the capacity of 10 Karen women to disseminate messages about the benefits of Pap tests and the Human Papillomavirus vaccine amongst their small community.

Programme/Policy Process: Ten women were recruited as educators; attendeding training about Pap tests and HPV vaccination and visiting local Pap test service providers. Resources were developed in Karen reflecting the communities’ religious beliefs and values system. The educators worked together in pairs to deliver education sessions in their community and supported women to make appointments for Pap tests and provided assistance to families to access the HPV vaccination program.

Outcomes/What was learned: Participatory evaluation methods demonstrated that prevention messages were shared with over 130 community members. This resulted in 41 Pap test appointments and an increase in Karen children being vaccinated for HPV. Peer educators continue to disseminate culturally relevant information and are now considered ‘go to people’ for cervical cancer prevention information. The links between the educators and their local community health services have improved, and their commitment to ongoing dissemination of information continues beyond the life of program.