Researchers from SA’s Aboriginal Chronic Diseases Consortium (SA ACDC), a flagship program of Health Translation SA, are moving a step closer to establishing South Australia’s first Aboriginal Cancer Healing Centre, thanks to pilot funding from the Hospital Research Foundation.
Following a successful joint bid with the Flinders and Upper North Local Area Health Network and the Rural Support Service, the pilot, and associated research, is earmarked for the Whyalla Hospital Chemotherapy Unit and expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The development of the Cancer Healing Centre model is part of two wider SA ACDC projects designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people with chronic disease, both supported by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
Health Translation SA’s support of SA ACDC projects, like the Aboriginal Cancer Healing Centre, is enabling valuable connections with partner organisations and health translation experts to maximise the impact and reach of research outcomes.
Dr Mejia says while the Whyalla pilot is a small start – it could include a range of developments, from specially designed outdoor spaces such as gardens or firepit areas, to interior artworks, or the development of spaces specifically designed for deep listening and yarning.
It will also ensure care providers gain a level of cultural awareness that enables them to provide care that is considerate of Aboriginal people’s beliefs so that consultations and conversations with Aboriginal patients are informed by these understandings.
“Consultation and engagement with Aboriginal people who have lived experience of cancer and their families is at the core of this project,” Dr Mejia says.
“What we know is that people who often need to travel far from home and country can feel isolated and disconnected from all that is core to their sense of self, at a time when they are most vulnerable and physically challenged.
“Our research will involve a suite of interviews with cancer patients and their families and cancer care providers both before and after the transformation of the treatment environment to gauge their impact on the wellbeing of patients receiving chemotherapy and cancer care in Whyalla.
“We also hope that these changes to the unit will encourage more Aboriginal people to feel comfortable receiving treatment in Whyalla, more engaged with their own care and treatment plan, and more likely to seek treatment at the unit.”
The comprehensive model, outlines three core principles for improving Aboriginal cancer care – support for cancer patients, their families and communities; the development of enablers, including workforce and governance requirements, cultural safety, the use of technology for outreach and follow-up, and a robust approach to monitoring and evaluation; and attention to the physical environments where cancer treatments and services are provided to ensure they are culturally safe and include indoor and outdoor spaces.
In collaboration with the Aboriginal Health Service in Whyalla – Nunyara, local Aboriginal health worker Deslyn Dodd will be consulting locally with Aboriginal communities to better understand what aspects of the cancer care services environment can be improved and what changes could be supported through the grant provided.
Ultimately, the researchers hope to track which changes will make a difference for Aboriginal people dealing with the real physical and emotional challenges a cancer diagnosis presents, offering important insights for Aboriginal cancer care on a broader scale.
Another key SA Aboriginal Chronic Disease Consortium project has supported the development of culturally responsive educational resources to enable and empower Aboriginal patients and health workers to improve health outcomes for people at risk of, or with a diagnosis of diabetes and its complications.
SAHMRI Platform Lead of Health Systems in the Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Equity Research Theme, Kim Morey, says the SA Aboriginal Diabetes Strategy 2017 – 2021 highlighted the significantly higher burden of diabetes disease, risks and complications that Aboriginal South Australians have to manage.
“A working group with partner agencies, including Diabetes SA, Country Health SA, Aboriginal Health Council of SA and the SAHMRI Aboriginal Health Equity Theme, identified topics for the resources to generate clinician discussion and inform patients about Type 2 Diabetes from an Aboriginal lived experience perspective.
“The project was led by the Consortium Coordinating Centre team including an Aboriginal project officer and an Aboriginal film maker was employed to undertake the filming of the videos that included a Diabetes Educator interviewing Aboriginal community members.
“Health Translation SA supported this valuable work through their advocacy with many specialists across the health system that resulted in improved pathways for translation of evidence into practice,” Ms Morey says.
For more information about this project go to Health Translation SA.