Lower income women in North more likely to go for cervical cancer screening

Study suggests North’s targeted health policy working


Women in lower income brackets in the North are more likely to avail of screening programmes for cervical cancer than their counterparts in the Republic, England or North America, according to new research.

South of the Border, the screening tends to be taken up by women in higher income groups, who are less at-risk of developing the condition. This mirrors the trend in England and North America, where wealthier women will also go for screening.

The working paper by NUI Galway economists found the take-up for screening in the North is driven by Catholics, and reasons for this are “unclear”.

Encouraging women
However, it suggested that the North’s public health agency was more successful in encouraging women to take up the screening option, Prof Ciarán O’Neill, NUI Galway dean of business, public policy and law, noted.

Cervical cancer was known to be more prevalent among those from lower socioeconomic groups, he said.

The working paper, which will be presented to an economics of cancer research symposium in NUIG on September 2nd, found differences in the pattern of inequality among screening participants between countries.

Inequality was highest in the US, followed by the Republic, England, then Wales. Scotland was “neutral” in terms of take-up, the paper found.

The study analysed participant figures over three years, dating back to 2007, in Britain, Ireland North and South and the US. Prof O’Neill said the trend identified in the North suggested that the “one size fits all” approach towards health policy was not necessarily the best approach and that the devolution of health policy management worked.

Inform policies
The researchers said the work showed how economists could help to inform cancer control policies.

“Whether or not an individual decides to avail of screening, a government decides to fund a particular service or a pharmaceutical company decides to invest in a new treatment, choices are made, choices that have consequences for individuals, families and society,” the professor said. “If we are to have an effective cancer control strategy, it is crucial that we understand how choices are made, what impact they have and how we might seek to improve upon them.”

The symposium is being funded as part of a Health Research Board initiative.