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Keywords:

  • feminist research;
  • health promotion;
  • patient-centred care;
  • qualitative research;
  • screening;
  • women’s health

Aims and objectives.  This article aims to explore the stories and perceptions of consumers and health care workers in an area with a low uptake rate of women’s health screening. Further, this article explores what factors influence women’s choices for women’s health screening in relation to the type of services they access.

Background.  Routine women’s health screening, using mammography and Papanicolaou (Pap) testing, is known to assist in the early detection of cancer and thereby has the potential to increase positive health outcomes for women. However, traditionally, compliance rates to women’s health screening are lower than desired because of multiple barriers. Previous studies have largely been quantitative and few have been conducted in areas of low compliance to women’s health screening. Furthermore, previous research has not identified the type of service offered, or gender of the professional providing this service, as potential barriers to women’s health screening.

Design.  Qualitative, storytelling design.

Method.  Participants from a socioeconomically disadvantaged area were recruited into the study via media releases. Data were collected during conversational, face to face interviews which were between 30 and 90 minutes in duration, digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. During the process of analysis, dominant stories became obvious through the repetition or emphasis of women's accounts, and it is these stories that are presented in the findings.

Results.  Findings suggest that women’s decisions about care for routine health screening are guided by three major concerns. Women are seeking a woman friendly and woman-centred service, a safe environment and continuity of care. All these factors informed women’s decision-making around where to seek care for routine health screening.

Conclusions.  Additional specialised women’s health services are required to meet the needs of women. The provision of accessible women-centred environments has the potential to enhance compliance with women’s health screening.

Relevance to clinical practice.  It is possible that generalist medical practises as well as specialised women’s health centres can provide woman-centred care. This as well as further access to education and training that supports nurses to become specialised competent and confident women’s health practitioners may enhance screening rates.