The Aboriginal Patterns of Care Project (APOCC) project, after making a number of pivotal discoveries in Aboriginal health, is now working with Aboriginal communities to improve cancer awareness and education.
We now have a better understanding of the differences in cancer diagnosis, surgery and survival between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, and the need for more culturally relevant information and education. The APOCC team is developing print and online resources that will help anyone working with Aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal people are 60% more likely to die from their cancer than non-Aboriginal people. The APOCC project has revealed that Aboriginal people suffering from some cancers are diagnosed at a more advanced stage than non-Aboriginal Australians, can be less likely to have surgery, and often have other health conditions which can make their cancer more difficult to treat. In addition, a number of barriers can hinder appropriate cancer care for Aboriginal people, including the perception that cancer is a ‘death sentence’, and the fact that mainstream cancer services are often culturally inappropriate for this group. Aboriginal communities may be unaware of the potential impact of cancer on their people, and may face practical obstacles such as their distance from major cancer treatment centres.
This is the largest project to date looking at cancer care for Australian Aboriginal people. APOCC studies have documented gaps in cancer care received by, and the survival of, Aboriginal people with cancer; interviewed Aboriginal cancer survivors and carers; examined patterns of care; and investigated the pathways to diagnosis. To raise awareness and promote change, a number of clear and simple print and online resources are being developed specifically for Aboriginal communities. These will target the knowledge gaps identified by the research findings, in readily accessible and culturally appropriate formats.
APOCC has provided a detailed understanding of the depth and breadth of the gap in cancer care for Aboriginal people. The differences in survival and the likelihood of surgery between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians demonstrate that there is much to do to close this gap. The lack of information within Aboriginal communities and the cultural challenges for the healthcare system reveal a need for more education. By telling people about the research findings and what they mean, the researchers will begin to raise awareness of the issues. This is the first step in a campaign to improve Aboriginal cancer care.