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Am J Public Health. 1994 January; 84(1): 43–49.
PMCID: PMC1614921

Physicians' recommendations for mammography: do tailored messages make a difference?


OBJECTIVES. Message tailoring, based on individual needs and circumstances, is commonly used to enhance face-to-face patient counseling. Only recently has individual tailoring become feasible for printed messages. This study sought to determine whether printed tailored recommendations addressing women's specific screening and risk status and perceptions about breast cancer and mammography are more effective than standardized printed recommendations. METHODS. Computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted with 435 women, aged 40 to 65 years, who had visited family practice groups within the previous 2 years. Subjects were randomly allocated to receive individually tailored or standardized mammography recommendation letters mailed from physicians to patients' homes. Follow-up interviews were conducted 8 months later. RESULTS. Tailored letter recipients were more likely to remember and to have read more of their letters than standardized version recipients. After controlling for baseline status, tailored letter receipt was associated with more favorable follow-up mammography status for women with incomes below $26,000 and for Black women. CONCLUSIONS. Tailored messages are a more effective medium for physicians' mammography recommendations; tailoring may be especially important for women of low socioeconomic status.

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