Optimal cancer care for aboriginal and torres strait islander people: a shared approach to system level change

Jennifer Chynoweth, Meaghan M. McCambridge, Helen M. Zorbas, Jacinta K. Elston, Robert J.S. Thomas, William J.H. Glasson, Joanna M. Coutts, Barbara A. Daveson, Kathryn M. Whitfield

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    PURPOSE To improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the development and national endorsement of the first population-specific optimal care pathway (OCP) to guide the delivery of high-quality, culturally appropriate, and evidence-based cancer care. METHODS An iterative methodology was undertaken over a 2-year period, and more than 70 organizations and individuals from diverse cultural, geographic, and sectorial backgrounds provided input. Cancer Australia reviewed experiences of care and the evidence base and undertook national public consultation with the indigenous health sector and community, health professionals, and professional colleges. Critical to the OCP development was the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts and consumers. RESULTS The OCP received unanimous endorsement by all federal, state, and territory health ministers. Key elements of the OCP include attention to the cultural appropriateness of the health care environment; improvement in cross-cultural communication; relationship building with local community; optimization of health literacy; recognition of men's and women's business; and the need to use culturally appropriate resources. The OCP can be used as a tool for health services and health professionals to identify gaps in current cancer services and to inform quality improvement initiatives across all aspects of the care pathway. CONCLUSION The development of the OCP identified a number of areas that require prioritization. Ensuring culturally safe and accessible health services is essential to support early presentation and diagnosis. Multidisciplinary treatment planning and patient-centered care are required for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, irrespective of location. Health planners and governments acknowledge the imperative for change and have expressed strong commitment to work with indigenous Australians to improve the accessibility, cultural appropriateness, and quality of cancer care.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)108-114
    Number of pages7
    JournalJCO Global Oncology
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

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