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Development of a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cancer framework: a shared process to guide effective policy and practice
Indigenous Australians experience a substantially higher cancer mortality rate than non-Indigenous Australians. While cancer outcomes are improving for non-Indigenous Australians, they are worsening for Indigenous Australians. Reducing this disparity requires evidence-based and culturally-appropriate guidance. The purpose of this paper is to describe an initiative by Cancer Australia and Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) to develop Australia’s first National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cancer Framework using a process of co-design with relevant stakeholders. The initiative was guided by three core principles: achieving policy-relevant evidence-based outcomes; engaging and maintaining trust with Indigenous Australians at every phase; and employing best-practice and appropriate research methods. Four components of research comprised the Framework development: evidence review; multifaceted stakeholder consultation and input; triangulation of findings; and direct stakeholder input in drafting and refining the Framework. The evidence review confirmed the increasing burden of cancer on Indigenous Australians, while stakeholder consultations facilitated comprehensive input from those with lived experience. The consultations revealed issues not identified in existing literature, and gave different emphases of priority, thus reinforcing the value of including stakeholder perspectives. This paper focuses primarily on documenting the methods used; findings are presented only in order to illustrate the results of the process. The published Framework is available at www.canceraustralia.gov.au; further description and analyses of findings from the consultations will be published elsewhere. The logistics inherent in large-scale consultation are considerable. However, the quality of data and the foundation for sustained partnership with stakeholders and knowledge translation vastly outweighed the challenges. The process of wide-ranging stakeholder consultation described in this paper offers a model for other areas of national and international Indigenous priority setting and policy and practice development that meets the needs of those most affected. The Framework, through the establishment of an agreed, shared and evidence-based agenda, provides guidance for jurisdictional cancer plans, optimal care pathways, and program and service planning for the multiple players across all levels of the health system.