Barriers to employment of Australian cancer survivors living with geographic or socio‐economic disadvantage: A qualitative study

Employment is a critical social determinant of health, however opportunities for cancer survivors’ employment can often be impacted by health inequities. Socio-economic and geographic disadvantage is associated with greater difficulty finding work, but little is known about employment needs of Australian cancer survivors living with disadvantage. This qualitative study examined survivor and health-care professional (HCP) perspectives on barriers experienced by Australian cancer survivors experiencing disadvantage when attempting to remain at or return to work. Focus groups and individual interviews were held with cancer survivors, oncology and primary HCPs, focusing on communities at risk of disadvantage.  Reported barriers for survivors living with geographic disadvantage included distance from treatment and support services and limited availability and suitability of work. Limited availability, security, and flexibility of work and previous unemployment were reported for survivors living with socio-economic disadvantage. Identified needs included system-level changes such as public and workplace-level education, legislative and policy changes, and better access to resources. Overall, HCPs recognised many of the same themes as survivors themselves. Both HCPs and survivors recognise the need for these issues to be addressed at a system level, with education, legal representation and better provision of resources all identified as avenues for promoting greater health equity for cancer survivors.

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