In September 2021, FFV announced a multi-year partnership with Cancer Council Victoria to support their Elimination of Cervical Cancer Strategy. The goal is to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in Victoria by 2030, with a particular focus on populations that bear the greatest burden of the disease.
The strategy focusses on increasing cervical screening participation rates; reducing patient level barriers to attending follow up treatment (e.g. colposcopy appointments); increasing community confidence in the HPV vaccination; and maintaining HPV vaccination rates.
FFV has committed $1M over four years. During the first year of the partnership, Cancer Council Victoria conducted research to inform future targeted activities, interventions and communications.
Earlier this year, Cancer Council interviewed 725 Victorian women, investigating their knowledge, attitudes and preferences around cervical screening and self-collection. This provided critical baseline data to measure the effectiveness and impact of the Elimination Strategy activities.
Qualitative research was also undertaken with 67 under-screened women from Arabic, Cantonese and Mandarin speaking communities. This yielded rich information in these cohorts about knowledge gaps, barriers, motivating factors, information needs and cultural considerations.
Research is currently underway with health professionals and patients to investigate factors that prevent women at higher risk from attending follow up medical appointments.
Cancer Council Victoria has also delivered communication campaigns, to reach the thousands of Victorian school children who missed out on the HPV vaccine due to COVID-19 disruptions, garnering coverage in regional and metropolitan media.
Findings from the initial research will help strengthen the next stage of the work, which will include targeted communications designed to increase cervical screening participation; reducing barriers to medical follow up for women at higher risk of developing cervical cancer; developing self-collection capacity building pilot programs for health services; and ongoing communication and engagement strategies to support HPV vaccination in Victoria.
Cervical cancer is highly preventable through regular cervical screening and the HPV vaccination, but unfortunately many vulnerable women are missing out on this potentially lifesaving opportunity. This research has provided invaluable insights to help us better understand the reasons people do or don’t screen and what we can do to best inform, encourage and support Victorians to participate in regular cervical screening and to stop cervical cancer before it starts.
Alice Bastable, Cervical Cancer Elimination Manager