Breast Screening
Cervical Screening
Bowel Screening
Diabetic Retina Screening

New materials and training to boost understanding of screening among minority communities

By Dr Aoife Collins, Senior Health Promotion Officer, Public Health Department, National Screening Service

We have developed a range of new materials to help increase understanding of screening amongst minority and vulnerable communities. The materials have been created in collaboration with social inclusion leads and health advocates in the South East. It is our aim that these new, co-designed materials will provide more people with the information necessary to enable them to choose to participate in screening.

The new materials cover the four NSS screening programmes: BreastCheck, CervicalCheck, BowelScreen and Diabetic RetinaScreen. They include a co-designed, easy-to-read four-programme factsheet; translations of the easy-to-read factsheet in Arabic and Romanian; and updated information about the four programmes which is now included in a manual for refugees in Emergency Reception and Orientation Centres (EROC).

We provided training for intercultural health advocates (IHAs) to guide them in how to use the materials to introduce screening amongst their communities, which include asylum seekers, refugees and Roma.

IHAs are often themselves members of the communities they work with. They are employed by NGOs and funded by HSE Social Inclusion South East, and work in partnership with health service staff. They help people in their communities identify their health needs, access information and entitlements, and when necessary, represent and negotiate on their behalf.

The training sessions revealed several barriers to screening that are experienced by people they support. For example, trainees explained that some people do not have a PPSN (Personal Public Service Number), and therefore cannot register online. They also queried why there should be different registers for the four screening programmes; and if information that is updated in a hospital or primary care setting updates automatically on NSS registers.

They explained that many in their communities do not have a GP; usually if they have symptoms of illness they go to an A&E department. They are less likely to access cervical screening because they are not in as much contact with primary care, and might not receive invitations or advice on screening.

Regarding cervical screening, the trainees explained that there was a lack of understanding of HPV (human papillomavirus) in their communities, such as how it is transmitted, how it can lie dormant, and why cervical screening is not offered to those under the age of 25 years.

They asked us to consider the removal of the need to give a PPSN when registering for screening; more communications to explain that people do not need to have a GP in order to access screening services; more detailed information on HPV; training for staff to ensure new communities are supported with information on repeat tests and recalls; and for a single register for the four screening programmes.

The Public Health team in the National Screening Service are considering the insights gained from the training session and how the NSS can respond to the needs of these communities.

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