Objective: To assess the comparative efficacy, by randomised controlled trial, of three interventions designed to encourage "at risk" women to have a Pap smear: an educational pamphlet; letters inviting attendance at a women's health clinic; and letters from physicians.
Methods: Subjects at risk for cervical cancer who had not been adequately screened were identified by a random community survey and randomly allocated to one of the intervention groups or a control group. Six months after intervention implementation, a follow up survey assessed subsequent screening attendance. Self report was validated by comparison with a national screening data base.
Results: A significantly greater proportion of women (36.9%) within the group receiving a physician letter reported screening at follow up than in any other group (P = 0.012). The variables most strongly predicting screening attendance were: age, perceived frequency of screening required, use of oral contraceptives, and allocation to receive the physician letter intervention.
Conclusions: The relative efficacy of the GP letter in prompting screening attendance shows that this strategy is worthy of further investigation. There remains a need to examine the barriers to screening for older women, and to develop tailored strategies for this population.