Ground-breaking research led by Aboriginal communities into Indigenous healthy ageing, cancer and cancer care

Cancer and Healthy Ageing

Cancer is the third most common cause of death among Aboriginal people, with significantly lower survival rates relative to other Australians. Relatively little is known about how to reduce the burden of cancer and improve cancer outcomes for Aboriginal people.

The Cancer and Healthy Ageing in Aboriginal NSW Older Generations Study (CHANGES) provides a detailed understanding of healthy ageing and cancer and first-of-its-kind data about current cancer care for older Aboriginal people in NSW and how this meets their needs and preferences.

CHANGES: Understanding healthy ageing, cancer and cancer care in Aboriginal people

CHANGES is Aboriginal community-led research that will explore views on healthy ageing and how cancer outcomes can be improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Study is led by five Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) in NSW in partnership with the Sax Institute and the Cancer Institute NSW.

CHANGES reports the experiences of Aboriginal people aged over 50 with a cancer diagnosis, along with their families and caregivers, ACCHSs and mainstream health professionals who provide cancer care about how the cancer care system is working for Aboriginal people.

The Study’s interviews and focus groups take a yarning approach to give people the time, respect and space to tell their health stories in their own way. Yarning is a conversational process that involves the sharing of stories and is culturally prescribed, cooperative, and respectful. This local input is vital as the unique circumstances of each community mean that what works in one setting may not in another.

Interviews with older Aboriginal people with a cancer diagnosis, frontline workers at participating ACCHSs and mainstream cancer care providers are being used to map existing services for Aboriginal patients and identify potential areas of improvement for cancer prevention and treatment.

These findings, along with analysis of population-level epidemiological data about the causes of poorer survival from cancer and the cancer care pathways, identify how best to tailor prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support services for this group.

The Study’s data is being shared with key policy makers and stakeholders to identify opportunities for improved care that will be grounded in culturally responsive strategies and will obtain agreement about actions for meaningful improvements in cancer care for older Aboriginal people.

CHANGES is funded by National Health and Medical Research Council and is planned to run until 2023.

Now is the time to let Aboriginal Australians lead the conversation on what it means to age well, and what kind of cancer treatment works best in urban and remote communities.

Sandra Bailey

Senior Advisor in Aboriginal Health, Sax Institute

ACCHS partners

Working as part of CHANGES are five Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services: Brewarrina Aboriginal Medical Service, Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service, Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation, Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation