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Socio-culturally mediated factors and lower level of education are the main influencers of functional cervical cancer literacy among women in Mayuge, Eastern Uganda

21 Jan 2020
Alfred Jatho, Maniple Everd Bikaitwoha, Noleb Mugume Mugisha

Background: Health literacy (HL) is the degree of an individual’s knowledge and capacity to seek, understand and use health information to make decisions on one’s health, yet information on the functional level of cervical cancer literacy in Mayuge and Uganda as a whole is lacking. We, therefore, assessed the level of functional cervical cancer literacy
among women aged 18–65 years in Mayuge district in five functional HL domains; prior knowledge, oral, print, numeracy and e-health. Understanding the factors associated with cervical cancer literacy is also pertinent to cervical health communication programming, however, no study has documented this in Uganda and particularly in Mayuge. Mayuge is a rural population based cancer registry and one of the sites for piloting cancer control interventions in Uganda. We also assessed the factors associated with cervical cancer literacy and awareness about currently available cervical cancer preventive services.

Methods: The study protocol was approved by the Uganda Cancer Institute research and ethic committee (UCI-REC). In August 2017, we assessed five HL domains; cervical cancer knowledge, print literacy, oral literacy using audio-clip, numeral literacy and perceived e-HL among 400 women at household levels. Correct response was scored 1 and incorrect response was scored 0 to generate the mean percentage score for each domain. The mean scores were classified as limited, basic and proficient bands based on the McCormack HL cut-offs scale for knowledge, print, oral and e-health and Weiss cutoffs in the newest vital signs (NVS) for numeracy. We used the cervical cancer literacy scores to explore the effect of selected study variables on cervical cancer literacy. We also conducted five focus group discussions (FGDs) based on the theoretical constructs of the PEN-3 model.

Results: The majority (96.8%) of the participants demonstrated a limited level of cervical cancer literacy with a mean score of 42%. Women who had completed a primary level of education or lower (OR = 3.91; p = 0.044) were more likely to have limited cervical cancer literacy. The qualitative data indicated that the women had limited cervical cancer literacy
coupled with limited decisional, social and financial support from their male partners with overall low locus of control. Most (92.3%) of the women were not aware of the available cervical cancer services and had no intention to screen (52.5%).

Conclusions: The women in Mayuge in general have limited cervical cancer literacy except oral HL domain. Limited cervical cancer literacy was highest among women with lower level of education and overall literacy seemed to be influenced on the higher side by socio-cultural constructs characterised by limited decisional, social and personal resources among the women with overall low locus of control. The Mayuge women further demonstrated scant knowledge about the available health services in their district and low intention to screen. Multi-strategy cervical health empowerment programme is needed to improve cervical HL using orally disseminated messages.

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