Initiative led by Swinburne researcher helps increase breast cancer screening

Hand in hand

OPtimise HEalth Access and Literacy (Ophelia) is a community co-design process that was created to reduce health inequality

A new study has found that using a community co-design approach can significantly increase mammography screening rates among Italian and Arabic-speaking women.

The study, published in the prestigious international journal PLOS One, tested simple but novel strategies suggested by women in the community and co-designed by BreastScreen Victoria as part of the OPtimise HEalth LIteracy and Access (Ophelia) process, developed by a team led by Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences at Swinburne’s Centre for Global Health and Equity, Professor Richard Osborne.

Women in Victoria from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds undergo mammography screenings less often than the general population. This study showed that a reminder phone call in the women’s preferred language (in this case Italian or Arabic) was ten times more effective in addressing this issue than the standard practice of no phone call at all.

Using Ophelia to address inequality

Ophelia was designed to give women and health professionals a voice in the research process.

“Health literacy is linked to health outcomes. People with lower health literacy are less likely to be able to find and use the healthcare they need. Ophelia was developed to address this inequality, and to test and identify new initiatives and provide organisations with a structured approach to bridge this gap. We do this by taking a people-, clinician- and organisation-centred approach to better understand how to improve our services and systems to provide all people fair access to the services they might need,” Professor Osborne explains.

“Part of Ophelia is understanding how we can produce meaningful opportunities for the community to improve their chances of health. In this instance, we were able to find a low-cost, effective, simple solution to increasing CALD women’s participation in mammography screenings” he adds.

Addressing under-screening

The study, funded by the Victorian Government, was delivered and implemented in partnership with BreastScreen Victoria by Professor Osborne’s research team, including Dr Alison Beauchamp, now at the University of Melbourne.

It focused on women from Italian and Arabic-speaking backgrounds residing in north-west Melbourne – an area where increasing screenings is considered a priority. Participants consisted of a random sample of women, aged 50 to 74, from Arabic and Italian-speaking communities who were due for their mammography screening, as well as women who were under-screened.

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