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Lessons Learned: Providing a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program for Low-income Multiethnic Women With Abnormal Pap Smears

Abercrombie, Priscilla D. PhD, RN, NP; Zamora, Anita BS, RN; Korn, Abner P. MD


Although the incidence rate of cervical cancer has decreased over the last several years, low-income ethnic minority women remain at increased risk for morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer. We conducted a pilot study to examine the feasibility and acceptability of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program among multiethnic low-income women with abnormal Pap smears. Spanish- and English-speaking women recruited through convenience sampling participated in MBSR classes 2 hours each week over 6 consecutive weeks. State anxiety and self-compassion were measured before and after the MBSR program. Focus groups and surveys were used to evaluate the program. Although 51 women were initially recruited, pre- and post-MBSR data were available only for 8 women. There was a significant reduction in anxiety and a trend toward increased self-compassion in this group of women. The participants evaluated the MBSR program very positively. The high attrition rate highlights the challenges of conducting MBSR research with this demographic of women. Potential strategies for improving recruitment and retention of low-income multiethnic women are discussed.

Departments of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences (Drs Abercrombie and Korn), Family Health Care Nursing (Dr Abercrombie), and Community Health Systems (Ms Zamora), University of California, San Francisco.

Corresponding author: Priscilla Abercrombie, PhD, RN, NP, Women's Health & Healing, 150 Jordan Ave, San Anselmo, CA 94960 (e-mail:

We acknowledge our MBSR teachers, Nancy Bardacke, MA, CNM, and Reverend Hilda Ryūmon Gutiérrez Baldoquín, MSEd, and the consultation of Shauna Shapiro, PhD. We thank Danielle Briggs for her contribution to the literature review. We are particularly grateful to the women who participated in this program for offering their insights, sharing their experiences, and giving their time.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.