Intimate Stories: Aboriginal Women’s Lived Experiences of Health Services in Northern British Columbia and the Potential of Creative Arts to Raise Awareness About HPV, Cervical Cancer, and Screening

  • Virginia L. Russell Graduate of the Community Health Sciences Program, University of Northern British Columbia
  • Sarah de Leeuw Assistant Professor Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia; Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
Keywords: Sexual health promotion, creative art(s), HPV, cervical cancer, Aboriginal women, community-based approaches


Guided by feminist and community-based participatory methodologies and by efforts to decolonize health research practices, and undertaken with qualitative research methods (interviews, open-ended questionnaires, and analysis of arts-based expressions like storytelling, journaling, and picture-making), this research identified challenges and barriers that (predominantly Aboriginal) women in northern British Columbia faced when trying to access sexual health care services related to HPV and cervical cancer screening. The research also examined the possible effectiveness of creative or arts-based strategies to promote cervical health and screening awareness among young and/or traditionally underserved or marginalized women. We review findings from data gathered over six months during multiple interactions with 22 women from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Results confirm that ethnicity, finances, and formal education are determinants in women’s awareness about, access to, and use of cervical screening services, and that experiences of gendered victimization, feelings of disempowerment, and life circumstances all influenced women’s comfort levels with, access to, and use of cervical cancer screening services.