Introduction: Cervical screening programs have been introduced in many countries and are generally regarded as the most appropriate and effective method currently available for preventing cervical cancer. Although action has been undertaken by some rural practitioners, especially by district midwives, there are still few published data on the effectiveness of community-oriented cervical screening programs in Greece.
Objective: To explore an innovative approach in a primary-care setting in rural Crete. This study reports on the effectiveness of a health education meeting in recruiting women for a cervical screening program.
Methods: At a centre for the elderly, 16 women participated in an educational discussion meeting organised to promote cervical screening. The women who participated in the discussion meeting were invited to organise a group visit to a rural primary healthcare centre, in order to be screened as a team during the following 15 days. The theoretical model underpinning the development of this intervention was based on the 'social learning theory'. Emphasis was placed up individual and social responsibility regarding cervical cancer.
Results: A total number of 48 women (average age 62 years) including all those who participated in the educational discussion meeting, visited the Spili Health Center, Crete, 15 days after the discussion meeting. The main finding was the high compliance rate of the women who participated in the educational discussion meeting, resulting in recruiting all the initial participants. Moreover, the lay women who participated in the small group discussion meeting, in the capacity of key messengers convinced an additional 32 women to participate in a screening program for cervical cancer as members of a team, rather than individually. The majority (52.1%, n = 25 out of 48) of the women had not been previously screened for cervical cancer.
Conclusions: Health education is an important factor in the process of health promotion, and health professionals should consider the dynamics of a specific group in order to carry out their work effectively. Awareness of the special characteristics of an individual as a member of a defined group can contribute to increasing the motivation for participation in health programs as a member of that group. It is suggested that more educational programs take place in rural Crete in order to augment the compliance rate of women in cervical screening programs.