Challenges to equitable access to cancer services for Indigenous Australians

  • Beverley Marcusson

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    Cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (hereafter respectfully referred to as Indigenous Australians). There is a significant disparity in the overall cancer burden between Indigenous Australians and their non-Indigenous counterparts. While it is known that inequitable access to cancer services contributes to this disparity in cancer outcomes, little is known about the experiences of and challenges facing Indigenous people in accessing cancer care. To identify the challenges facing Indigenous Australians access to cancer care, this thesis examined this in two contexts: first, Indigenous cancer patients’ experience of gynaecological cancer care; and second, the challenges faced by Indigenous Australian adults with cancer in accessing and engaging with a major cancer service in the Northern Territory. The body of research conducted across these studies aimed to understand Indigenous cancer patients’ experiences of accessing and engaging with cancer services and to identify the key challenges they faced and suggest potential solutions. Understanding the experiences of Indigenous cancer patients is critical in reshaping cancer policy and practice to achieve equitable access to cancer care for Indigenous people and decrease the current disparity in the burden of cancer between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
    Taken together, the findings presented in this thesis identify a number of significant challenges facing Indigenous patients accessing cancer care, including: miscommunication and unsatisfactory relationships with cancer care providers; the intractability in the healthcare system; interpersonal and financial pressures associated with cancer and cancer care; a dearth of welcoming and culturally safe cancer care environments; and a pervasive historically-based wariness of state-controlled systems. Immediate attention is required to adapt existing cancer services to advance equitable access for Indigenous Australians, especially in regional and remote areas. Adapting services must be guided by the views and experiences of Indigenous Australians with cancer, in conjunction with best-practice guidelines, such as the Optimal Care Pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal Cultural Security Framework and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Framework.
    Date of AwardDec 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKate Anderson (Supervisor) & Gail Garvey (Supervisor)

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