An Aboriginal Health Cancer Support Officer has started work in the Manning and Great Lakes region to better support Aboriginal people diagnosed with cancer and reduce the impact of the disease on their local community.
The position has initially been funded as a pilot project as part of Manning Cancer and Palliative Care Service's broader strategy to identify the gaps in cancer support and services for Aboriginal people.
The new Aboriginal Health Cancer Support Officer Michelle Wilkes said as well as supporting all Aboriginal people and their families from point of diagnosis the role will focus on cancer screening and prevention.
"It's important that we engage with the Aboriginal community about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and of cancer screening, as well as linking them into cancer care services in the acute sector and services available in the community. It's critical that Aboriginal people are supported at all stages of their cancer journey," Ms Wilkes said.
"The role provides Aboriginal people with a clear point of contact to help them access mainstream cancer and palliative care services to improve their cancer journey."
The role is part of the Hunter New England Health Cancer Network's commitment to improving access to cancer prevention, screening and treatment services for Aboriginal people, in an effort to Close the Gap in health and wellbeing between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
Currently there is a 12 year gap between the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people.
"There's an identified variation in outcomes for Aboriginal people diagnosed with cancer, with
cancer mortality rates 1.5 times higher and survival percentages 1.3 times lower than non-Aboriginal Australians,"* Ms Wilkes said.
"Aboriginal people diagnosed with cancer between 1999 and 2007 had a 40 per cent chance of surviving five years compared to non-Aboriginal people who had a 52 per cent chance of survival,"* Ms Wilkes said.
The Aboriginal Health Cancer Support Officer will work alongside clinicians including local GPs to provide a critical link and referrals to services in the community.
*The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Cancer Australia http://www.naccho.org.au/download/aboriginal-health/Cancer%20in%20Aboriginal%20peoples%20An%20Overview%202013.pdf