Toolkit for engaging Under-screened and Never-screened women in the National Cervical Screening Program

Women who experience socio-economic disadvantage

Page last updated: 31 October 2020 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

NCSP participation data from 2014-2015 showed 51% participation for the lowest socio-economic group compared to 63% for the highest socio-economic group (AIHW 2017).

Barriers to screening

In addition to the general barriers women may face in participating in cervical screening, the following barriers have been identified as common for women who experience socio-economic disadvantage.

Barriers to cervical creening for women who experience socio-economic disadvantage
  • Cost: out-of-pocket expenses associated with going to the GP unless bulk billing is available, and pathology costs if laboratories charge higher than the MBS fee
  • Low education levels
  • Literacy barriers
  • Competing priorities, such as employment, access to food etc.

Engagement strategies

The following strategies may be effective in engaging women who experience socio-economic disadvantage in cervical screening



Reduce out-of-pocket costs

 Reduce or eliminate fees for women with a healthcare card

Service flexibility

Offer screening opportunistically

Appropriate communication

Provide resources explaining the importance of cervical screening that have been written in plain English.

Health literacy

‘Health literacy’ refers to how people understand information about health and healthcare, and how they apply that information to their lives.

In Australia, it has been estimated that almost 60% of adults have a low level of individual health literacy. The proportion of people with low individual health literacy is even higher for people who speak English as a second language.

Low health literacy is a barrier to good health and healthcare. The following diagram provides an overview of some of the steps health services can take to help improve the health literacy of their patients.
Infographic on how you can help your patients understand their health better

Source: The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Health Literacy for Clinicians

Strategies include:
  • Asking the patient to repeat the instructions/information they have just been told
  • Expressing directions specificity, ‘you must take one week off work’ as opposed to ‘you need to rest’
  • Using plain language rather than medical terms
  • Sitting face-to-face with patients
  • Using simple diagrams and pictures, and
  • Repeating directions multiple times.

Healthcare provider resources

Consumer resources

  • 5. – Consumer resources – includes a range of downloadable resources which can support conversations about cervical screening