Background: Patient navigator (PN) programs can improve breast cancer screening in low income, ethnic/racial minorities. Refugee women have low breast cancer screening rates, but it has not been shown that PN is similarly effective.
Objective: Evaluate whether a PN program for refugee women decreases disparities in breast cancer screening.
Design: Retrospective program evaluation of an implemented intervention.
Participants: Women who self-identified as speaking Somali, Arabic, or Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian) and were eligible for breast cancer screening at an urban community health center (HC). Comparison groups were English-speaking and Spanish-speaking women eligible for breast cancer screening in the same HC.
Intervention: Patient navigators educated women about breast cancer screening, explored barriers to screening, and tailored interventions individually to help complete screening.
Main measures: Adjusted 2-year mammography rates from logistic regression models for each calendar year accounting for clustering by primary care physician. Rates in refugee women were compared to English-speaking and Spanish-speaking women in the year before implementation of the PN program and over its first 3 years.
Results: There were 188 refugee (36 Somali, 48 Arabic, 104 Serbo-Croatian speaking), 2,072 English-speaking, and 2,014 Spanish-speaking women eligible for breast cancer screening over the 4-year study period. In the year prior to implementation of the program, adjusted mammography rates were lower among refugee women (64.1 %, 95 % CI: 49-77 %) compared to English-speaking (76.5 %, 95 % CI: 69 %-83 %) and Spanish-speaking (85.2 %, 95 % CI: 79 %-90 %) women. By the end of 2011, screening rates increased in refugee women (81.2 %, 95 % CI: 72 %-88 %), and were similar to the rates in English-speaking (80.0 %, 95 % CI: 73 %-86 %) and Spanish-speaking (87.6 %, 95 % CI: 82 %-91 %) women. PN increased screening rates in both younger and older refugee women.
Conclusion: Linguistically and culturally tailored PN decreased disparities over time in breast cancer screening among female refugees from Somalia, the Middle East and Bosnia.