NUI Galway Researchers Identify Socioeconomic Inequalities in Uptake of Cervical Cancer Screening

Pictured is Professor Ciaran O'Neill, Dean of Business, Public Policy and Law, NUI Galway
Aug 23 2013 Posted: 09:55 IST

Higher uptake among well-off in Ireland, UK, US but among less well-off in Northern Ireland

A working paper published this week by NUI Galway economists points to important differences in uptake of cervical cancer screening. The study compared uptake of cervical cancer screening in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and the US. It found that while cervical cancer is known to be more prevalent among those from lower socio-economic groups, uptake of screening in Ireland, England and the US all evidenced a pro-rich inequality – the better off were more likely to avail of it.


By contrast in Northern Ireland, the less well-off were more likely to avail of it; a pro-poor inequality was evident. Interestingly, this was driven by the behaviour of Catholics where a marked pro-poor inequality was evident, no such inequality being evident among Protestants.


While incidence rates and mortality rates associated with cervical cancer have been shown to evidence a pro-poor pattern (poor people are more likely to have and to die from cervical cancer), the study results show that in Ireland, England and the US a pro-rich pattern of screening exists. Why Northern Ireland should evidence a pro-poor pattern of service use and why Catholics in particular should do so is unclear but suggests that opportunities exist for shared learning.


NUI Galway researchers point to this as an example of how economists can help inform cancer control policies. Further work by economists from NUI Galway will be presented at the Inaugural Economics of Cancer Research Symposium to be hosted by NUI Galway on Monday 2nd September. The Symposium, funded as part of a Health Research Board (HRB) Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Scheme (KEDS) initiative, will include presentations that explore various economic aspects of cancer care, policy formulation and research.


Contributors include speakers from the National Cancer Institute (USA), University of Washington, Imperial College London, the Stockholm School of Economics, Irish Cancer Society and Health Research Board. Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer of Northern Ireland will provide the opening address. A range of poster presentations based on work conducted in Ireland will be on display.


Professor Ciaran O’Neill, Dean of Business, Public Policy and Law says “Every decision has an economic dimension. Whether or not an individual decides to avail of screening, a government decides to fund a particular service or a pharmaceutical company decides to invest in a new treatment, choices are made; choices that have consequences for individuals, families and society. If we are to have an effective cancer control strategy it is crucial that we understand how choices are made, what impact they have and how we might seek to improve upon them. While research at NUI Galway has helped inform the development of policy in Ireland we recognise that no one individual or group has all the questions let alone all the answers. This symposium and the Group it will launch will create an international forum where we can explore the issues and seek answers to the questions together.”


Brendan Walsh, co-organiser and HRB/NCI Fellow states “The Economics of Cancer Research Symposium will bring together stakeholders involved in cancer research including clinicians, patient groups, policy makers, the media and economists. It is hoped that Group to be launched at the symposium will provide an infrastructure that will facilitate communication and knowledge exchange amongst cancer researchers from multidisciplinary backgrounds, both in Ireland and internationally, and allow evidence-based research to be easily disseminated to help inform policy across the cancer care pathway.”


Registration for The Economics of Cancer Research Symposium is free and available at or by emailing or


The Symposium will be live broadcast online at the Health Economics and Policy Analysis webpage


Follow this Group on or using the hashtag #EconCancer

Working paper “Exploring inequalities in service use: the case of cervical cancer screening in Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States” can be found here:





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