From January through June 2012, Dan Allen, a student at the Boston University School of Public Health, conducted research into men’s perceptions of cervical cancer and cervical cancer prevention services in San Juan de Rio Coco, Madriz, Nicaragua. As we are well aware from our work, men are often the primary decision-makers regarding women’s health. While Grounds for Health has always been interested in reaching out to men, we lacked sufficient resources and knowledge. Dan’s insight into men’s attitudes and beliefs about cervical cancer screening has given us a strong foundation that we can build upon to reach out more effectively to men.
Dan spoke to men in many communities within Madriz. He interviewed men that he encountered on the streets, as well as men that he met while doing visits to the coffee-growing communities with staff from our coffee cooperative partners. He also organized two focus group discussions with members of the coffee cooperatives. He asked men about their knowledge regarding cervical cancer, their attitudes towards screening for the women in their communities and their behaviors around supporting or prohibiting screening for their female family members.
Some of the main findings of Dan’s study include:
- There is a pervasive lack of knowledge regarding cervical cancer, its cause, prevention methods and the scope and severity of the disease.
- Reasons why women do not access prevention services:
- Lack of time in her busy schedule
- Idea that screening will cost a great deal of money
- Embarrassment or shame due to the nature of the exam
- Fear of the results
- Men do not allow their partners to get tested for a variety of reasons, including:
- Fear of the diagnosis
- Jealousy which leads them to not want a doctor to look at or touch their significant other
- Lack of value placed on the health of their significant other
- Men’s main concern was the cost of the screening and the cost of the treatment
- While men are generally ignorant regarding cervical cancer, they are receptive to learning about it
Based on these findings, Dan made several recommendations we are considering as we expand our work with men. These include:
- Address the issue of costs directly. While families incur costs in terms of time and money when going to the clinic and getting screened, it is important to emphasize that screening tests save money in the long run. Dan found that using a car analogy—that women (and people in general) could be like cars, requiring some maintenance to keep running well—was an effective technique to illustrate this.
- Link support for cervical cancer prevention to being a good husband and family men. Messaging can state that by increasing men’s knowledge regarding cervical cancer, we can increase their ability to be a better provider for their family.
- Train more men as community health promoters and male community leaders. Getting more men involved in all levels of the program is an important strategy for reaching more men.
According to Dan, the most important finding is that even though men lack knowledge about cervical cancer and prevention, they are open to learning, which gives us great hope and potential.
We are grateful to Dan for his great work and look forward to using his information in continuing to improve our programs and reach out to more communities.