4 April 2012
PapScreen Victoria is implementing a funding initiative to help improve cervical screening rates within the Koori community.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia are currently twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and five times more likely to die from the disease than non-Indigenous women.
PapScreen Victoria is offering grants of up to $3,000 each to Aboriginal health services and organisations dedicated to improving cervical screening for Indigenous women across Victoria. The funds can be used to provide additional Pap test clinics or to implement a health promotion event encouraging Indigenous women within their local community to have regular Pap tests. All services must be provided free of charge and be delivered by the end of the year.
Kylie Johnson, Aboriginal Education Program Coordinator at PapScreen Victoria, says Indigenous women are a key priority when it comes to improving cervical screening participation.
"We know there are cultural barriers that Koori women face when it comes to having Pap tests, such as feelings of shame and the lack of a culturally appropriate or female provider," explained Ms Johnson.
"Often there is also the issue of women knowing the health professional on a personal level - perhaps a relation or a family friend - and not feeling comfortable having the test for that reason. We believe these issues could be impacting screening behaviours within this population group, which in turn is contributing to the increased cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates.
"PapScreen Victoria's Koori Grants Program is just one initiative we're undertaking to help improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We are also working closely with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and Aboriginal health professionals to target cancer prevention messages to Indigenous Victorians. Education within these communities is crucial to effectively address these much higher rates of cervical cancer," Ms Johnson said.
Jill Gallagher, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (VACCHO), agrees.
"Aboriginal people are significantly more likely to have cancers that have a poor prognosis, are usually diagnosed at a later stage, are less likely to receive adequate treatment, and are more likely to die from some cancers than other Australians," said Ms Gallagher.
"Initiatives such as PapScreen Victoria's Koori Grants Program are fundamental to help raise awareness and reduce the prevalence and mortality of cancer within these communities," she said.
Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) - the ‘common cold' of sexually transmitted infections. All women aged 18-70 who have ever been sexually active should have a Pap test every two years to help prevent cervical cancer. This includes women who have had the HPV vaccine, which only protects against 70% of cervical cancers.
For more information on cervical cancer, Pap tests and HPV, or to find out how your organisation can apply for a Koori Community Grant, visit www.papscreen.org.au.
Applications for a Koori Grant close on the 17th April 2012.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2009