University of Western Australia: Raising awareness of health needs of Aboriginal people with cancer

Aboriginal health professionals and educators from across the state gathered in Perth last week to increase their awareness and understanding of the specific needs of Aboriginal people with cancer.

The WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) of The University of Western Australia in conjunction with Cancer Council WA hosted a three-day professional development course at St Catherine’s College to train participants in the ‘Whisper No More’ learning package.

WACRH Director Professor Sandra Thompson said part of the innovative program features Aboriginal cancer patients from WA’s Midwest sharing their personal stories on video.

“Understanding more about Aboriginal people’s views of cancer and experiences of health care is essential to developing better cancer care and health outcomes,” Professor Thompson said.

“By sharing their stories on video, those involved in Whisper No More have contributed to a valuable resource for health professionals to help enhance their understanding of what matters to Aboriginal people when they have cancer.”

With Aboriginal people frequently called upon by family, patients and professional colleagues for a variety of roles in education, the workshop was designed to develop participants’ skills as educators and build networks between Aboriginal health professionals and cancer support staff.

Topics covered in the video interviews include the importance of family for support when accessing cancer treatments; experiences related to cancer screening, care seeking and delays in diagnosis; their response to diagnosis and treatment; the measures they took to stay well and their wishes for end-of-life care.

An outcome of the training has seen an Aboriginal Cancer Educators Support Network established to help participants’ build their skills and knowledge and to support each other’s efforts to change those aspects of the care system that are not optimal for Aboriginal people with cancer.

The resource was developed by the WA Centre for Rural Health in Geraldton. The UWA Poche Centre for Indigenous Health Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives enabled WACRH to fund the training, travel, and accommodation costs of more than 15 Aboriginal health workers and educators from across the state to attend the training.

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