Increasing access to cervical cancer screening in Vanuatu

Now Family Planning NSW and the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, with support from the Australian government, is working with the Vanuatu Family Health Association (VFHA), to reduce the number of women dying from cervical cancer. Together we are piloting a screening program through six government and non-government clinics in Vanuatu.

There are many women in Vanuatu who live on the outer islands, or in more rural or remote areas, or who cannot afford the transport into a clinic or hospital in town. To reach them, VFHA nurses will go to them, running outreach clinics from small village health centres.

Last week Family Planning NSW staff attended an outreach clinic in the village of Mele, which is about 20 minutes drive from the capital, Port Vila. To promote the clinic, an education session was held for the community two days before the clinic was to run. More than 50 women and girls came along to the local church eager to hear about cervical cancer from the nurse and the importance of screening, as well as the HPV vaccination for younger girls. All the women and girls were encouraged to attend the outreach clinic for screening and vaccination.

On the day of the clinic the VFHA nurses and other staff arrived at 8:30am to set up - there were already around 40 women waiting for them! Numbers continued to increase throughout the day, and nearly 60 women received screening for cervical cancer, as well as education on other health issues, including family planning. Women of all ages attended, and for many it was the first time they have been screened for cervical cancer.

women waiting for cervical cancer screeinng at Mele village, Vanuatu

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