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Study reveals true scale of Indigenous lung cancer disparity

11 April 2016
PhD candidate Kalinda Griffiths investigated intersecting disparities in lung cancer care

A news study has found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas are approximately eight times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-Indigenous Australians.

You can’t look at Aboriginal disparity in isolation; we need to consider the complete picture.
Kalinda Griffiths, PhD candidate

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost eight times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-Indigenous Australians living in remote areas, new University of Sydney research shows.

In the first and largest study of its kind, PhD candidate Kalinda Griffiths from the Sydney Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics investigated intersecting disparities in lung cancer care and outcomes amongst at-risk communities in NSW.

“It’s important to take into consideration the compounding effects of socioeconomic disadvantage and geographic locality when considering treatment and outcomes. You can’t look at Aboriginal disparity in isolation; we need to consider the complete picture,” said Griffiths, who is a former Northern Territory Young Australian of the Year.

“Existing studies into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lung cancer rates usually only estimate for one measure: Indigenous status. But this neglects the fact that Aboriginal people often have multiple social statuses, which can be measured in different ways.”

As part of her PhD thesis, Griffiths examined linked data for 20,846 people diagnosed with lung cancer from the NSW Central Cancer Registry between 2001 and 2007. She then investigated the interrelationship between incidence, treatment, survival and mortality, based on socioeconomic status, Indigenous status and geographic location.

The results also revealed a gap in available data into lung cancer treatment for Indigenous patients.

“This might be due to people not accessing services, and this may depend on the patient’s remoteness or socioeconomic status. Being isolated from services, not having trust in the healthcare system and family responsibilities may prevent Indigenous people from accessing treatment options.”

Kalinda will continue to explore new ways to tackle such disparities in health outcomes for Indigenous people as an inauguralWingara Mura Leadership Program Fellow. Launched in 2016, this new program aims to assist Indigenous early career academics with tailored guidance and support as they complete their PhD studies.

The full results will be presented at the World Indigenous Cancer Conference in Brisbane on 12 April 2016.