Background. Compared with other countries, Hong Kong has a relatively high rate of cervical cancer. Much of this morbidity should be avoidable with cervical screening, but uptake rates for screening in Hong Kong are low. In programmes to promote cervical screening attendance, it is essential that aspects of the socio-cultural system be taken into account to provide appropriate preventive health strategies.
Aim. This paper outlines an investigation of the cultural and social factors contributing to Chinese women's attendance for cervical screening.
Method. A mixed methods design was employed, combining and comparing two data sets. The initial data set was drawn from 10 focus groups involving both screened and unscreened Chinese women (n = 54). The second data set was drawn from a total population of Hong Kong doctors, and involved face-to-face semi-structured interviews (n = 28).
Results. Thematic analysis of the data from women indicated that the social factors of cost, educational base, knowledge of risk, the social value of early detection and cultural issues such as modesty and embarrassment contributed to screening attendance. The doctors perceived a cultural tendency towards fatalism, as well as seeing the gender, interpersonal and interprofessional skills of the practitioner to be important in influencing levels of Chinese women's shyness and discomfort, and hence affecting attendance. The lay and practitioner data sets varied in the perceptions of women's pain, embarrassment and risk factors.
Conclusion. Programmes providing services for Chinese women need to ensure that the philosophy of the staff and the approach and materials used are culturally relevant. Recommendations are that nurses equipped with relevant social and cultural knowledge of population groups should have a central role in health promotion and screening services.