Rachel Hamilton

An Investigation of the Elements Required for a Successful Cervical Cancer Awareness Campaign Designed to Meet the Needs of Women in Rural Nicaragua

Cervical cancer is a devastating disease, but with the right resources it is both treatable and preventable. In communities with low socioeconomic status and limited resources, cervical cancer awareness and treatment often falls as a lower priority to other health care needs, and in some places is virtually nonexistent. Every day, 600 women die from cervical cancer (PAHO, 2005). This is a particular crisis within Latin America where access to screening and treatment are often severely limited, and due to social contexts such as machismo, women often hold little power to negotiate the use of condoms or advocate for themselves in the health arena.

In May 2005 the UCA (Union of Agribusiness Cooperatives) Miraflor expressed a need to address the problem of cervical cancer within their community. UCA Miraflor has a population of 4,105, and is located in the northeast portion of the municipality of Estelí within the mountains of Northern Nicaragua (UCA Miraflor, 2005). As a population greatly affected by poverty, health care resources are scant and cervical cancer prevention and treatment is practically non-existent.

This study evaluated programs that increase cervical cancer awareness and promote treatment, particularly among rural Spanish speaking populations. A questionnaire was designed and pilot tested with the community leaders of UCA Miraflor. Over 60 health professionals working within Nicaragua were contacted with a request to participate in this survey. To date, four of these health professionals have responded with interest and have moved onto the next phase of the study. This research is ongoing and is a part of a continuing effort to build such programs in Miraflor.

This research has identified several key factors in implementing a successful cervical cancer awareness and treatment program in Miraflor. The education of both men and women regarding cervical cancer and screening practices is a primary dynamic in achieving this goal. Collaboration between healthcare providers, community leaders, and stakeholders is key in harnessing all resources necessary to implement a comprehensive cervical cancer program. Due to the socioeconomic status of the community, it is necessary to have the programs at very low to no cost for the women and their families. A major challenge will be finding the funding to make all of this a reality.

Faculty Mentor: Julia Mason

Page last modified May 13, 2011