Fictitious cases as a methodology to discuss sensitive health topics in focus groups

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It can be challenging to research aspects of people’s health behaviour, attitudes, and emotions due to the sensitive nature of these topics. We aimed to develop a novel methodology for discussing sensitive health topics, and explore the effectiveness in focus groups using prostate cancer and screening as an example.

We developed a fictitious case and employed it as a projective technique in focus groups on prostate cancer and screening. The participants were men and their partners who lived in Denmark.

The technique encouraged emotional and cognitive openness in focus group discussions about the risk of prostate cancer, the benefits and harms of screening, and decision-making about screening. It appeared that using the fictitious case allowed the participants to personally distance themselves from the topic, project emotions onto the case, and thereby openly talk about their emotions.

This article presents a methodological contribution to communication about sensitive topics in focus groups, using prostate cancer screening as an example. Further refinement of the methodology is needed to enable participants to transfer improvements in knowledge to their own decision about screening.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being
Issue number1
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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