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Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jan;57(1):e7-15.

A qualitative evaluation of strategies to increase colorectal cancer screening uptake.

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  • 1Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ont.



To obtain data that could be used to optimize the content and design of the targeted, mailed invitations that Ontario's provincewide colorectal cancer (CRC) screening program plans to use to increase screening uptake; to identify other strategies to increase CRC screening uptake; and to describe the effects of this qualitative work on a subsequent quantitative pilot study.


Qualitative study using semistructured focus groups.


Four different Ontario communities.


Six focus groups comprising a total of 62 participants.


Six focus groups were conducted in 4 different Ontario communities. For 3 of the communities, participants were recruited from the general population by a private marketing firm, using random-digit dialing, and received a small honorarium for participating. In Sault Ste Marie, participants were convenience samples recruited from a large primary care practice and were not offered compensation. Responses were elicited regarding various strategies for promoting CRC screening. Findings represent all responses observed as well as recommendations to program planners based on focus groups observations.


Key themes identified included the importance of receiving a CRC screening invitation from one's family physician; a desire for personalized, brief communications; and a preference for succinct information in mailed materials. Strong support was indicated for direct mailing of the CRC screening kit (fecal occult blood test). Our findings substantially influenced the final design and content of the envelope and letter to be mailed in the subsequent quantitative pilot study.


We report strong support from our focus groups for a succinct, personalized invitation for CRC screening from one's own family physician. We have also shown that qualitative evaluation can be used to provide decision makers with pertinent and timely knowledge. Our study is highly relevant to other public health programs, particularly other Canadian jurisdictions planning organized CRC screening programs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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