A marked increase in the participation rate of Indigenous women screening for breast cancer has occurred following a 12-month project across Queensland targeting women from this under-screened group.
Closing the Gap in Breast Cancer Screening lifted the participation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the target age group, 50 to 69 years, in Queensland from 49 per cent in 2010/11 to 56 per cent in 2012/13. This was a 7 percent increase compared to a 2 percent increase in the non-Indigenous population participation rate for the same reporting period.
Indigenous health workers were trained and attended workshops to build their capacity to build trust, educate and support Indigenous women to attend BreastScreen for the first time or to rescreen.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer experienced by Indigenous women yet their participation in BreastScreen Australia remains lower (37 per cent in 2011/12) than the general population (55 per cent) and the national participation target of 70 per cent. Indigenous women also tend to have larger cancers on diagnosis and poorer survival rates.
Queensland’s 11 Hospital and Health Services that host BreastScreen Queensland services were funded to plan and deliver localised health promotion initiatives to recruit Indigenous women to breast screening. Initiatives included a small grants scheme, resources with culturally appropriate messages, art shows, partnerships with local Indigenous groups, and funding of non-government organisations to provide transport to screening locations.
In north Queensland, an Indigenous health worker was specially recruited and trained to promote the mobile screening van schedule to Indigenous women, including organising group bookings of women from the same community to attend together.
BreastScreen Queensland accessed $410,000 from the Queensland Government’s co-contribution under the federal Closing the Gap Indigenous Health Outcomes National Partnership Agreement for health programs to fund the project from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.
“A targeted approach to and investment in addressing the barriers and meeting the needs of a particular group of women has paid dividends in terms of their breast screening participation,” says Michelle Tornabene, Senior Health Promotion Officer Cancer Screening at the Queensland Department of Health.