Utilization of Papanicolaou Smears by South Asian Women Living in the United States

Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine, v. 18, no. 5, May 18, 2003, p. 377-384

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2003

by Saima Chaudhry, Arlene Fink, Lillian Gelberg, Robert H. Brook

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OBJECTIVES: Papanicolaou (Pap) smears are an underutilized screening modality among racial and ethnic minorities. However, no data exist on Pap smear utilization among South Asians, a rapidly growing population in the United States, whose country of origin includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. We determined rates and identified variables associated with Pap smear receipt by South Asians. DESIGN: A self-administered survey instrument was mailed to a random sample of South Asians nationwide over a 3-month time period. South Asian households were identified by surnames that were used to search white pages in telephone directories, Department of Motor Vehicle records, and voter registries. Questions regarding Pap smear receipt were taken from the 1999 National Health Interview Survey. Sociodemographic information and measures of acculturation were obtained. PARTICIPANTS: A nationwide nonprobability sample of South Asian women. INTERVENTION: Cross-sectional observational study. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The overall response rate was 42%. In this sample, South Asians belonged to a high socioeconomic strata (SES), with 45% having a household income of >$80,000 and 42% having a master's degree. Three quarters of the respondents (73%) reported having a Pap smear in the last 3 years. In multivariate logistic regression analysis, South Asian women had greater odds of having had a Pap smear if they were married (P <.001), more educated (P =.004), had a usual source of care (P =.002), and were more acculturated (P =.004). CONCLUSIONS: Despite the high SES of South Asian women, their rates of Pap smear receipt were lower than national recommendations. Marital status, socioeconomic status, and acculturation are all associated with Pap smear receipt. South Asian communities should be targeted for outreach to promote Pap smear utilization.

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