Healthcare Policy

Healthcare Policy 15(3) February 2020 : 28-46.doi:10.12927/hcpol.2020.26132
Research Papers

Health Policy as a Barrier to First Nations Peoples’ Access to Cancer Screening

Joshua K. Tobias, Jill Tinmouth, Laura C. Senese, Naana Jumah, Diego Llovet, Alethea Kewayosh, Linda Rabeneck and Mark Dobrow


Background: First Nations peoples in Ontario are facing increasing rates of cancer and have been found to have poorer survival. Cancer screening is an important strategy to improve cancer outcomes; yet, Indigenous people in Canada are less likely to participate in screening. Ontario has established organized breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening programs; this paper examines the health policy context that informs these programs for First Nations peoples in the province.

Method: This paper follows an embedded multiple-case study design, drawing upon a document review to outline the existing policy context and on key informant interviews to explore the aforementioned context from the perspective of stakeholders.

Results: Policies created by agencies operating across federal, regional and provincial levels impact First Nations peoples' access to screening. Interviews identified issues of jurisdictional ambiguity, appropriateness of program design for First Nations persons and lack of cultural competency as barriers to participation in screening.

Conclusion: Federal, provincial and regional policy makers must work in collaboration with First Nations peoples to overcome barriers to cancer screening created and sustained by existing policies.



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