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Health providers’ attitudes affect cancer care; Curtin research

Media release

A Curtin University study has found that knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of health practitioners influence the care people with cancer receive – and ultimately the effectiveness of treatment plans.

Curtin Chair of Health Innovation Professor Moyez Jiwa, who is also a general practitioner, said cancer was the most common disease in Australia, with one in two males and one in three females being diagnosed with it during their lifetime.

“The patient journey from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care is complex and can involve many healthcare professionals,” said Professor Jiwa.

“Primary care providers – including general practitioners, community pharmacists and allied health practitioners – help to address the psychosocial aspects of cancer and provide continuity of care. As such, these primary caregivers play a key role in patient recovery.

“Despite this, our research suggests there is considerable room to improve the role primary care providers, specialists, family members and even patients themselves play in cancer care.

“Several factors hinder participation in cancer care including knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of the primary care providers.”

The study found that appropriate knowledge plus positive attitudes and supportive beliefs were necessary to enhance the engagement of specialists and primary care providers in the continuity of cancer care.

“We recommend these underlying beliefs be addressed to develop appropriate educational, screening, and treatment approaches, including models of care and support that facilitate better patient engagement,” Professor Jiwa said.

“In doing this, we enhance quality of patient care and encourage more effective treatment plans.”

The study reviewed English publications from 2000 onwards, sourced from six academic databases. A total of 4,212 articles were reviewed to identify studies conducted in the UK, Canada, Holland (or The Netherlands), Australia, or New Zealand.

Titled The impact of knowledge, attitudes and beliefs on the engagement of primary and community-based healthcare professionals in cancer care: A literature review, the paper can be accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23998506.