Strategy announced for Indigenous cancer care

Various stakeholders have come together to provide a road map from prevention to survivorship

First Nation communities in British Columbia have a new strategy in place, aimed at improving cancer care and providing support for Indigenous people across the province.

With recent studies showing a lower survival rate among First Nations people with cancer, various health authorities are hopeful as roughly one third of all cancers can be prevented with proper exercise, healthy eating and regular screening.

This new strategy will address all aspects of cancer, with a focus on delivering culturally safe cancer care in six priority areas:

  • developing partnerships between the health system and Indigenous communities;
  • working with Indigenous communities to help prevent cancer before it starts;
  • increasing access and participation in colon, cervical and breast cancer screening;
  • promoting cultural safety and humility in cancer care services;
  • supporting Indigenous cancer survivorship and end-of-life experiences; and
  • improving knowledge of Indigenous cancer experiences

In designing the strategy in partnership with BC Cancer, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) and the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC), the Province of B.C. said this is reflective of our unique Indigenous landscape.

“This strategy is among the newest of its kind, and a crucial step in addressing cancer survival disparities among Indigenous people in British Columbia,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “When we understand and address the cultural barriers experienced by Indigenous people, the health system can provide preventative care, culturally respectful treatment and be a true partner in saving lives.”

Support will be provided for all Indigenous cancer patients, including survivors and their families, including First Nations with and without status living at home or away from home, Métis citizens or self-identified Métis and Inuit peoples.

“We are committed to moving forward quickly on implementing key points of this strategy,” said Dr. Malcom Moore, President of BC Cancer. “We recognize the unique cancer challenges and treatment outcome disparities faced by Indigenous people and we are working with out partners to ensure the delivery of culturally safe cancer care throughout the province.”

A lack of trust between members of the First Nation community and health care practitioners in part lead to the creation of this strategy.

President of the BCAAFC, Annette Morgan, explained that seeking medical help is not always safe and if people don’t feel safe or feel that could receive racial treatment, they won’t get screened — instead seeking help or guidance from a local friendship centre.

This thought was echoed by Moore, who acknowledged that improving screening rates and expanding access to these programs is a priority, despite the difficulties in accessing some rural communities.

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