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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 37(1)

The experience of lung cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and what it means for policy, service planning and delivery

Patricia M Davidson A D, Moyez Jiwa B, Michelle L DiGiacomo A B, Sarah J McGrath A, Phillip J Newton A, Angela J Durey B, Dawn C Bessarab B and Sandra C Thompson B C

A Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, 235-253 Jones Street (PO Box 123), Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia. Email: michelle.digiacomo@uts.edu.au; sarah.mcgrath@uts.edu.au; phillip.newton@uts.edu.au
B Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia. Email: m.jiwa@curtin.edu.au; m.digiacomo@curtin.edu.au; a.durey@curtin.edu.au; d.bessarab@curtin.edu.au; sandra.thompson@cucrh.uwa.edu.au
C Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, 167 Fitzgerald Street (PO Box 109), Geraldton, WA 6531, Australia. Email: sandra.thompson@cucrh.uwa.edu.au
D Corresponding author. Email: patriciamary.davidson@uts.edu.au

Australian Health Review 37(1) 70-78 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH10955
Submitted: 18 August 2010  Accepted: 4 May 2012   Published: 19 November 2012

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Background. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience inferior outcomes following diagnosis of lung cancer.

Aim. To examine the experience of lung cancer in this population and identify reasons for poorer outcomes and lower levels of treatment compared with non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and opportunities for early intervention.

Method. Literature was sought via electronic database searches and journal hand-searching for the period from January 1995 to July 2010. Databases used included Indigenous HealthInfoNet, SCOPUS, PsycInfo, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Medline, HealthInsite and Google Scholar.

Findings. Exposure to risk factors, cultural and spiritual values, remoteness and geographic characteristics, entrenched socioeconomic inequalities and racism contribute to reduced service access and poor outcomes. The review highlighted a complex interplay of individual, social, health system and environmental factors that impact on optimal lung cancer care and lung cancer outcomes. Considering the burden of lung cancer within a framework of social determinants of health is necessary for policy-making and service planning and delivery.

Conclusions. It is imperative that the disproportionate burden of lung cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is addressed immediately. Whilst strategic interventions in lung cancer prevention and care are needed, service providers and policy makers must acknowledge the entrenched inequality that exists and consider the broad range of factors at the patient, provider and system level. Primary care strategies and health promotion activities to reduce risk factors, such as smoking, must also be implemented, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ engagement and control at the core of any strategy. This review has indicated that multifaceted interventions, supported by enabling policies that target individuals, communities and health professionals, are necessary to improve lung cancer outcomes and disparities.

What is known about the topic? Aboriginal Australians suffer a disproportionate burden of ill health including poor outcomes from lung cancer.

What does this paper add? This paper reports the outcomes of an integrative literature review. The paper identifies potential barriers to optimal lung cancer care and management for Aboriginal Australians. This paper describes barriers within the context of individual beliefs and behaviours, healthcare systems issues and environmental issues. The authors conclude that acknowledging entrenched inequality and addressing factors at the patient, provider and system level are needed to reduce the lung cancer burden in Aboriginal Australians.

What are the implications for practitioners? This paper highlights the need for a greater focus on lung cancer care, awareness and diagnosis within the Aboriginal Australian population. Addressing culturally appropriate smoking-cessation initiatives is of particular importance. Primary care practitioners are key to reducing the burden of lung cancer in Aboriginal Australians.

Additional keywords: health policy, health services, Indigenous.


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