Objective: Global cancer incidence is rising rapidly, particularly in the developing world where a majority of people present with advanced disease. In the English-speaking Caribbean, there is very little published data on the needs of cancer patients, their caregivers or those of allied health professionals. The research team sought to redress this balance by undertaking a needs assessment survey in the South Eastern Health Region of Jamaica to identify unmet needs and to make recommendations for improved service delivery.
Methods: A mixed methods, cross-sectional study design was used involving formal and semi-formal interviews and focus group discussions.
Results: The study results indicated that there were significant barriers to accessing healthcare. These included prohibitive costs of diagnosis and treatment, a mistrust of, and poor communication with doctors, compounded by people’s fears, belief in folk wisdom and lack of knowledge about cancer. Recommendations offered by the study participants focussed on a community-based model of support to address the multiple needs of people facing life-limiting illness and their caregivers. Healthcare practitioners recommended the development of specific policies, targeting, in particular, improved drug availability and palliative care education in order to guide development of appropriate services for the large numbers of cancer patients in need.
Conclusion: A multiplicity of unmet needs was identified by cancer patients, their caregivers and allied health professionals. Recommendations by study participants and the authors echoed the guidelines as set out by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its 1990 Public Health Model for the integration of palliative care into existing healthcare systems.