The practical support program provides short-term practical relief where treatment for a cancer diagnosis is having a significant effect on a person’s ability to remain independent. It is intended for people who do not qualify for government-funded services and are unable to access support from family or friends. Support that may be accessed through the program includes cleaning, light housekeeping and meal preparation, short-term care of children and basic gardening. Clients, referrers (including nurses on Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 information and support line) and service providers were surveyed to provide feedback on the program. Data from record keeping systems were also examined to provide process measures on the number of referrals, referrals granted/declined, and average spend on services.
Referrals were higher than expected in the first year and were generated both from Cancer Council SA staff and health professionals working in cancer treatment centres. The results indicated satisfaction from the perspective of clients, referrers and service providers in a number of domains including information provision, referral and booking processes, speed and quality of service provision, and communication. Areas for improvement were identified through feedback, about the service not meeting a small number of client’s needs. Service providers indicated they would value further information or training to support their understanding of clients’ having cancer treatment. The impact of the program was reflected in clients’ reports of improvements in stress, general coping, energy/fatigue and ability to focus on treatment. Overall, the program is operating as intended. The evaluation has identified some areas where improvements could be made, particularly to support service providers to ensure the needs of clients are understood and addressed.
The burden and expenses associated with transport and accommodation have been identified as barriers to accessing medical treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer, who may additionally experience cultural and linguistic barriers. In response to a lack of culturally appropriate resources to explain cancer and the cancer journey to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer patients, Cancer Council SA lead the development of the Cancer Healing Messages flipchart and patient flyer to assist health professionals, particularly those working in regional and remote areas of South Australia.
The evaluation examined the usage, acceptability and perceived usefulness of the resources, barriers to uptake, and strategies to improve their utilisation and sustainability. This was accomplished through the participation of Aboriginal Health Workers and other health professionals working with Aboriginal clients in South Australia in a survey.
The resources were considered valuable, useful and culturally appropriate. However, despite the collaborative development with key stakeholders and reported high levels of acceptability, the uptake and usage of the resources was low. Barriers to usage were identified including access to the resources when needed. A long-term strategy and clear implementation plan involving education, training and promotion of the materials, is required to achieve broad reach and sustainable utilisation of the Cancer Healing Messages flipchart and patient flyer. The results will be presented in Melbourne at the Behavioural Research in Cancer Control conference, May 2017.