PATH's Cervical Cancer Prevention Action Planner

Lessons specific to communication and community mobilization

Overall, PATH has found that more communication about cervical cancer with more audiences is better than less communication, but of course resources usually dictate how broadly programs can reach out to various communities.

First and foremost, it is crucial to ensure that all women presenting for screening (or being recruited for it) understand the purpose and the procedure, what a positive or negative result means ("positive does not mean you have cancer"), and what might happen if there is a positive (or "abnormal") result.

In PATH programs, sensitization workshops with key community stakeholders and other health providers early in the service introduction process—well in advance of actual service delivery—helped promote buy-in and reduced the spread of negative rumors and other misinformation.

Women and their families appreciate receiving information about screening services through both direct communication with knowledgeable experts (e.g., trained health workers and teachers) and from mass media (such as radio or TV).

Integrating information about cervical cancer and new screening methods into existing health education sessions in schools or in women’s groups has proven successful in a number of countries.
Health promoters appreciate having materials that synthesize key messages to share with community members such as a flipchart for secondary prevention of cervical cancer, leaflets on VIA and other documents for communities.

Strategies appropriate for communication and community mobilization

  • Base communication strategies and messaging on evidence generated through formative audience research.
  • Consider using multiple communication channels but emphasize interpersonal strategies such as training health workers to talk to women effectively about screening and treatment.
  • Educate not only women, but also their husbands and other influential family members because women’s health decisions may not be made by the woman alone.
  • Ensure that strategies reach women in the target age range for cervical screening.
  • Invest in broad community education and mobilization where possible; this could pay off in terms of higher screening coverage, so it is important to move beyond the clinic and the family and implement effective community outreach programs. For example, you may wish to organize reproductive health talks during women’s group meetings, or mobilize village health teams and local teachers to talk about cervical cancer with the community.
  • Encourage women who have been screened to become local advocates. Ask them to talk about screening with friends and neighbors and to tell stories about people they have known who suffered from cervical cancer. Cancer survivors (and precancer survivors) and family members who have lost loved ones to cervical cancer often are the most passionate and energized community activists!
Photo: PATH/Lesley Reed

Additional resources

Print version: Cervical cancer screening and treatment in low-resource settings (PDF, RHO Cervical Cancer website)

Watch videoScreening and Treatment of Precancerous Lesions video and transcript

Screening and treatment (RHO Cervical Cancer website)

World Health Organization: Comprehensive Cervical Cancer Control: A guide to essential practice (PDF)

Planning and Implementing Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control Programs: A Manual for Managers (PDF)

Evidence-Based, Alternative Cervical Cancer Screening Approaches in Low-Resource Settings

Strategic Plan for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control in Uganda (PDF)

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