Ladies First Program
Vermont Department of Health

Increasing health screenings for older, lower-income women

In its early years, our work for the federally funded “Ladies First” cancer-screening program for older, lower-income women included research to test the effectiveness of creative messages and to explore the special health concerns of minority, New American, and lesbian women. The program evolved to include a broader range of women eligible for breast and cervical screenings and in 2002, women at risk of cardiac heart disease.

The Challenge

How can we reach and motivate lower-income women over age 50 to enroll in a preventive healthcare program that offers free mammograms and cervical cancer screening?

Insight: These women feared making medical appointments. 

Through research we uncovered fear of medical care, a concern of being discriminated against, and fear of costs for testing and possible treatment.

Ladies First focus group room layout


The target audience needs personal assistance to help make medical screening appointments, arrange transportation, and understand the process. "Call Kate" to join the program would humanized and provide a personal advocate for health screenings.

Targeted advertising to audience-preferred media channels encouraged inquiries to the program.

Support and encourage medical providers to work with the program to provide services and invoice the program.

Ladies First rack card with call Kate circled

How We Helped

We worked with the Department of Health to establish the Ladies First membership initiative and “Call Kate” assistance line to increase the health screenings of eligible women in Vermont. Medical providers received information packets to aid and refer potential members.


  • barriers-motivators focus groups
  • message testing focus groups
  • pre- and post-campaign surveys
  • branding
  • social marketing plan
  • campaign identity
  • campaign website design and development
  • advertising: TV, radio and print ads
  • print collateral and production
  • teen poster and giveaway
  • organized free community events
  • promotional items
  • public outreach
  • outreach to dental professionals

Partnering with Medical Providers

Provider information materials included handbooks, screening guides, prescription pads for mammograms and lifestyle coaching to help providers to aid and refer potential members.

Ladies First posters

Ladies First Posters

Seen in public spaces across Vermont
Ladies First print ad

Print Ads

Combined with TV and radio ads
Ladies First provider manuals

Manuals for Providers

Office manual and clinical manual


Breast and cervical cancer screenings increased, and the program was expanded to include additional health screenings and more women.

A strong network of providers was established to refer women for medical screenings and lifestyle coaching to improve health.

The program continues today as You First, offering personalized support to pay for and connect eligible Vermonters to breast, cervical and heart screenings, diagnostic tests and heart healthy lifestyle programs.

Ladies First provider training website