Porirua women screen at higher rate
‘‘We struggle to get women in our community to get smear tests done.’’
The music was loud, the jug boiled and nibbles provided as the women chatted and quilted in the clinic.
It’s not a traditional setting for a medical centre but Porirua Union and Community Health Service staff were trying something different.
Clinics can be off-putting for women who are waiting for their cervical smear appointments, centre coordinator Ioana ViliamuAmusia said. Instead, clinics should adapt to the community they serve.
‘‘We struggle to get women in our community to get smear tests done, because many of them are not born into or have not grown up in a western society, so we have to encourage them to visit clinics in a different way.’’
The music and laughter was a new approach to engage with Porirua’s diverse community during a recent weekend of cervical screening, where language and cultural differences often prevented women from visiting a registered nurse or GP.
Staff initiated the tivaevae model, encouraging women to partake in artistic quilting, traditionally done by Polynesian women.
Reading material was translated into several languages, and registered nurses fluent in Samoan, Tokelauan, and Cook Island languages were on hand to conduct the tests.
’’A tivaevae brings people together in a relaxed setting, it’s about partnership and sharing stories, a little bit of counselling too,’’ Viliamu-Amusia said.
‘‘Once people know about us and what we offer, they begin to trust us more. And having that connection within the community helps us to inform them of health issues.’’
In the three years ending March 31, 2017, cervical screening in women aged 25 to 69 years in the Capital and Coast District Health Board catchment sits at 77.6 percent.
The percentage of women screened is among the highest across the country, but still falls short of its target. However, they are not alone in failing to screen 80 percent of all eligible women, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) statistics.
Cervical cancer develops slowly when abnormal cells grow in the lower part of the uterus or womb. Regular screening can detect abnormalities and prevent health complications by removing them.
According to the MoH, about one in 90 women will develop cervical cancer and, without cervical screening, one out of 200 will die from it. With cervical screening, about one out of 570 will develop the disease and one out of 1280 will die from it.
District Health Boards are charged with screening 80 percent of all eligible women, but many struggle to reach that target.
Of the 82,091 women aged 25 to 69 years within the Capital and Coast DHB map, 63,663 were screened in the three years ending March 31, 2017.
In that same time period, 61.4 percent of Maori women were screened, 67.1 percent of Pacific women, and 63.3 percent of Asian women. Women in the European/ other category screened at a much higher rate of 84 percent.
Dr Collette Bromhead, a former advisor for the National Cervical Cancer Screening Programme, said Maori, Pacific and Asian women were most at risk of contracting cervical cancers.
The senior lecturer at Massey University said language and cultural differences were the main obstacles, as well as living in rural areas.
‘‘If all medical centres and primary care could be delivered the same way as the Porirua Union and Community Health Service, it would be wonderful. They have done a fantastic job of engaging with their community.’’
Instead of a waiting awkwardly for an appointment, Mama Matapuku, centre, encouraged women to partake in a tivaevae, an artistic quilt, while they waited. Centre coordinator Ioana ViliamuAmusia