Investigating informed choice in screening programmes: a mixed methods analysis

Natalie Tyldesley-Marshall, Amy Grove, Iman Ghosh, Laura Kudrna, Abimbola A Ayorinde, Megha Singh, Edward Mehaan, Aileen Clarke, Sian Taylor-Phillips, Lena Al-Khudairy

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Screening programmes aim to identify individuals at higher risk of developing a disease or condition. While globally, there is agreement that people who attend screening should be fully informed, there is no consensus about how this should be achieved. We conducted a mixed methods study across eight different countries to understand how countries address informed choice across two screening programmes: breast cancer and fetal trisomy anomaly screening.

Fourteen senior level employees from organisations who produce and deliver decision aids to assist informed choice were interviewed, and their decision aids (n = 15) were evaluated using documentary analysis.

We discovered that attempts to achieve informed choice via decision aids generate two key tensions (i) between improving informed choice and increasing uptake and (ii) between improving informed choice and comprehensibility of the information presented. Comprehensibility is fundamentally at tension with an aim of being fully informed. These tensions emerged in both the interviews and documentary analysis.

We conclude that organisations need to decide whether their overarching aim is ensuring high levels of uptake or maximising informed choice to participate in screening programmes. Consideration must then be given to all levels of development and distribution of information produced to reflect each organisation’s aim. The comprehensibility of the DA must also be considered, as this may be reduced when informed choice is prioritised.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2319
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2022


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