Investigating cancer care for Indigenous Australians
Research Team: Winthrop Professor Sandra C Thompson, Assistant Professor Shaouli Shahid
Project foundations for DISCOVER-TT originate from findings revealed from research commenced in 2005. Initial research, undertaken by Dr Shahid, explored the beliefs and understanding of Aboriginal people about cancer and their experiences with cancer services in WA.
DISCOVER-TT aims to:
- Build an evidence base through innovative, high-quality, priority-driven, applied health services research to reduce the marked disparities in the treatment and survival for Indigenous Australians with cancer.
- Improve the quality of life of Indigenous Australians with cancer through strategic focus on health systems performance in the area of cancer and palliative care services.
- Investigate improved models of care and service delivery to identify those that best suit the needs of Indigenous Australians.
The project was created under a Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) due to its enormity and vast required amount of research. The overall CRE is led by Menzies School of Health Research’s Aboriginal researcher, Associate Professor Gail Garvey. In collaboration, with Menzies and many other national and international organisations, WACRH drives 3 of the 8 project components:
Distinctive cancer care requirements of Indigenous cancer patients: Indigenous cancer patients have reported multiple substantial barriers to accessing and completing cancer treatment. This project works to identify the distinctive features of Indigenous cancer patients related to their preferences for cancer treatment and support frameworks. Other elements of DISCOVER-TT include identifying improvements for existing cancer care services, and useful training and support activities for service providers to name a few.
The end of life and palliative care service utilisation among Indigenous cancer patients: Many Indigenous patients live in rural and remote communities where access to palliative care services is limited. This research investigates the impact of remoteness, accessibility and availability on patients’ use of cancer care services and how this, in turn, affects their “end of life” quality of life.
Innovations in cancer services to improve outcomes in Indigenous cancer patients: This project will comprehensively assess current service models and their level of effectiveness in the delivery of cancer care to Indigenous Australians. Barriers, as well as facilitators to successful program implementation will also be identified. Distinctive care needs of Indigenous cancer patients will be taken into account and investigated to determine required improvements to service delivery, including alternative service delivery models such as telehealth and outreach services.
The WACRH team will also be working closely with the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Health, to progress a fourth component of the DISCOVER-TT project:
The role of Indigenous cancer survivors in improving cancer awareness and outcomes for Indigenous cancer patients: Cancer survivors have undertaken organised activities to improve cancer services in many ways, including lobbying and fund-raising, raising awareness, and supporting other patients and families, demonstrating ‘peer support’ as an important element to people affected by cancer. Indigenous survivors do not (this may currently be changing) have the same history of organisation or capacity to volunteer formally. This project will inform the content, nature, and mode of delivery of quality supportive care programs for Indigenous cancer survivors.
In addition to all targeted project outcomes described above, this project builds on and extends previous works on cancer in Indigenous Australians, and brings together key researchers, practitioners, and consumer advocacy groups from across Australia. It aims to actively promote the translation of research knowledge into Australian public health policy and practice, and train a new generation of researchers in Indigenous cancer control.
Funding was provided by the National Health and Medical Research’s Council (NHMRC) Centre for Research Excellence DISCOVER-TT, Cancer Councils of NSW and WA, Ca-CINDA