Project looks to improve access to cancer care, outcomes in Métis citizens living in rural, remote areas

·3 min read

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) has announced funding for more than 20 projects they say will work to remove inequities and barriers that many face when seeking cancer-related health care in Canada, including one that will see the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) look to improve access to cancer care and improve cancer outcomes for Métis citizens living in rural and remote areas.

Back in May of 2022, CCS announced the launch of their new Health Equity Research Grants program, as part of a broader strategy that the organization said they had implemented to “advance cancer-related health equity across the country.”

At the time, CCS said that any project that applied for funding through the program would be considered if it addressed the “systemic, structural, and institutional factors that sustain health disparities in Canada.”

They also asked that any projects looking for funding be co-created by people affected by cancer and affected by “structural marginalization” in cancer care systems in this country.

On Monday, CCS announced that 22 projects have been approved for a total of $1.6 million in funding in the first ever round of funding through the project, including one major research project that will see MMF collect data and examine how living in remote and rural areas can lead to inequitable and often inferior cancer care, and cancer outcomes for Red River Métis citizens.

The project, which will receive $300,000 from the program, will see Dr. Julianne Sanguins, an Assistant Professor at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba (UM), lead a team that will partner with Métis citizens and work to analyze and research the state of cancer care services for those in isolated and rural communities.

According to CCS the project was one of the 22 that received funding, because they said it is important to collect data that could lead to people who live in remote areas detecting cancer earlier, and in some cases CCS said an early diagnosis could mean the difference between life and death.

“When cancer is caught early, treatment is more likely to succeed,” CCS said in a media release on Monday. “But for Red River Métis people living in remote and northern areas of Manitoba, accessing cancer screening can be difficult.

“Even though cancer is the number one cause of death among Red River Métis, there is no data on how this community participates in screening, or how the distance they must travel to receive cancer care impacts their cancer experiences.”

With the funding, Sanguin and her team will partner with MMF citizens, Elders and those who have experienced cancer to “examine the link between distance to care and cancer stage at diagnosis.”

“By focusing on prevention and early detection, the team hopes to reduce the burden for Métis in remote areas who currently travel long distances for cancer treatment,” MMF said.

“The goal is to create programs and pinpoint policy changes that could improve diagnosis and, ultimately, save the lives of remote and northern Métis people in Manitoba.”

MMF said they will use data analytics and mapping tools for the project, and will work with Cancer Care Manitoba to visually identify where screening services are available, and where those types of services need to be improved.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun