Health screening uptake among British women increases, but stark health inequalities remain

Health screening uptake among British women increases, but stark health inequalities remain


New data from Hologic reveals the state of women’s health in the UK. Despite promising signs of cancer screening being on the rise, it shows many women are still facing barriers to accessing life-saving care.

The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index is one of the world’s largest surveys of women’s well-being, led by Hologic and in partnership with analytics firm, Gallup.

The Index assigns a women’s health score (from one to 100) to each of 122 countries and territories, and in 2021 the UK dropped three points, now scoring 60 out of 100. It also reveals that in the UK, testing among women in areas of preventative health such as blood pressure (44.7% vs 43%), cancer (14.3% vs 10%) and diabetes (22.9% vs 18%) has improved since last year.

To gain deeper insight into women’s health specifically in the UK, a supplementary survey was conducted by OnePoll. This revealed that the majority of UK-based women (86%) are likely to take up a health screening or vaccination invite, and of the tests and vaccines women in the UK get, the highest number was cancer screening 66% (bowel, breast and cervical combined), followed by blood tests (61%), and flu vaccine (56%).

While the findings point to a positive step forward for women overall in the UK when it comes to preventative health, it also highlights the existence of healthcare inequalities among different groups of women. The OnePoll research found that women from ethnic minorities (non-white women) reported lower attendance for cervical cancer screening (31% vs 65%), breast cancer screening (11% vs 25%) and sexual health screening (17% vs 26%) compared to white women.

Additionally, younger women aged 18-24 (10%) and in some parts of the UK such as London (9%) and among ethnic minorities (11%) were unlikely to take up health screening and vaccination invitations. It shows there is still work to be done with encouraging health screenings among certain groups of women, who are often disproportionally affected by healthcare inequalities.

There are also disparities when it comes to women having a complete understanding of their personal risk of developing cancer. The research found that 90% of white women reported an understanding of their personal risk of developing cancer compared to 84% of women from ethnic minorities (non-white).

Tim Simpson, General Manager, Hologic UK & Ireland, said: “We know that inequalities exist within global healthcare systems and as champions of women’s health, we are determined to fill a critical gap in what the world knows about women’s health and wellbeing.

“While our research shows there has been some positive developments in the UK over the last year when it comes to preventative health, globally, more than 1.5 billion women worldwide lack screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or sexually transmitted diseases/infections, even though these conditions together affect billions of women.

“It highlights there is still a long way to go to make testing, screening, access to diagnostic services and treatment a core component of women’s health and to address the barriers and challenges that come with making healthcare more accessible for more women.

“Ultimately, we believe you can’t change what you don’t measure, so we hope this data provides vital information to healthcare leaders and policymakers to enable change and create a healthier world for more women.”

Dr Nighat Arif, a GP specialising in women’s health and family planning, said: “While it is encouraging to see there has been some improvement in screening uptake among women – there is more work to be done to ensure all women can access this life saving preventative care.

“As the data shows, there are still stark health disparities across the UK, particularly impacting women from ethnic minorities. This is sadly something I see daily through my work, hearing from women who do not feel represented or listened to. To tackle this, health information must be made more accessible and there needs to be more done to communicate with women in these communities.”

The Index shows that all 122 countries and territories evaluated have significant room for improvement in women’s health. The average global score was only 53 out of a possible 100, with the highest score being 70 for Taiwan and the lowest score being 22 for Afghanistan.


To learn more about the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, visit

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