The 2016-17 reporting year has reinforced the role of Cancer Council Australia in helping to inform the Australian public about cancer, as well as being a voice for those people directly affected.
In June 2016 I was the co-author of an article highlighting the “financial toxicities” some Australians with cancer face. Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, our editorial explored the excess costs cancer patients are hit with, as well as the lack of transparency regarding alternatives that are cheaper but just as effective.
This paper set the scene for our media and policy agenda over the last financial year. While overall cancer survival rates are now 68%, there are stark differences in outcomes between different cancer types, and an individual’s cancer experience can vary greatly depending on cultural background and where they live, as well as their financial situation. Cancer Council is playing a key role in highlighting these issues and proposing solutions.
In September 2016 we highlighted the need to continue to address inequities in access to cancer drugs following a government review, and in May 2017 we responded to the Government review of medical research, highlighting the opportunities to use the existing health system to improve survival rates for poor-prognosis cancer types.
More recently we have established a new Cancer Council national committee, the Health Services Advisory Committee, which brings together a wide range of experts across health services research, clinical practice, and consumer perspectives to develop a new agenda aimed at improving the delivery of cancer services in Australia. The priorities established by this committee range from improving diagnosis to making better use of health data to improve system performance. There will be a key focus on cancer types and populations where cancer outcomes are poorer.
We are excited about the chance to embed these priorities into a revised Cancer Council Australia strategic plan that will shape our work over the coming years.
Our focus on highlighting cancer inequities is coupled with our ongoing efforts to educate Australians about cancer prevention. The biennial Behavioural Research in Cancer Control conference, showcasing the important prevention and public health research undertaken by Cancer Council staff across Australia, was held in May 2017. There were more than 100 presentations across the spectrum of behavioural research, exploring everything from reducing risk factors for cancer and increasing screening participation to the delivery of support services, all demonstrating the important independent contribution our researchers make to improving cancer control.
Tobacco continues to be the biggest preventable cause of cancer in Australia, and we know that plain packaging and tax excise is continuing to help drive smoking rates down. While we must not lose sight of what’s working, we continue to remind Australians to quit smoking and highlight the need for tailored campaigns for vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.
Likewise, we have continued to remind Australians about skin cancer prevention. In July 2016 the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released encouraging new statistics that showed that melanoma rates in under 40s are decreasing – a positive reward after years of public health campaigns, including “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide”. However, our national Sun Protection Survey data shows that most Australians do not use all five forms of sun protection – and, importantly, that the use of hats has declined. With two out of three Australians developing a skin cancer by the age of 70, we continue to seek investment by the federal government in skin cancer prevention campaigns to help redress declining sun protection behaviours by many Australians. This report features a number of our other prevention highlights over the last year, including our efforts to educate Australians about factors such as diet, weight and physical inactivity, alongside risks in the workplace, such as diesel fumes.
Importantly, we also continue to encourage Australians to participate in our screening programs while we produce guidelines that help heath professionals diagnose cancer early and treat cancer effectively.
Our vision is a cancer-free future. Working towards this means not only giving those affected by cancer a voice, but also focusing on those areas where we can make the biggest difference to prevention and outcomes. We are looking forward to including this in our 2017-2018 strategic plan.
This page was last updated on: Thursday, December 21, 2017