National Cancer Charity highlights the continuing health inequalities faced by the Traveller Community.

The Marie Keating Foundation, in partnership with Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, have launched online education hubs and created bespoke cancer information resources to improve the early detection of cancer and ensure better outcomes for Traveller men and women

The Marie Keating Foundation and Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, have come together to highlight the enduring barriers that affect members of the Traveller community when it comes to accessing and engaging with cancer prevention and early detection information.

The two organisations have worked closely together for many years, but over the last 12 months have worked on creating bespoke educational resources, workshops and online guides in an effort to close the health gap for members of the Traveller community.

According to the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study, Travellers have poorer health outcomes than the non-Travellers with life expectancy much lower than average[1].

To help bridge this inequality in cancer care for all marginalised communities, the Marie Keating Foundation worked in partnership with Pavee Point to provide accessible, timely, culturally appropriate cancer awareness and prevention information sessions on some of the cancer types that worst effect the Traveller Community in Ireland such as Ovarian Cancer and Prostate cancer.

This was in an effort to renew the Foundation’s commitment to ensuring everyone in Ireland has equality of access to vital services and the necessary information needed to access those services in a culturally appropriate manner.

Pavee Point’s research shows that 50% of Traveller Primary Health Care Workers that attended the cancer prevention and early detection workshops created by the Marie Keating Foundation, believed that CervicalCheck also screened for Ovarian Cancer. After delivery of the workshop, 90%[2] of women understood what CervicalCheck screened for, and how to watch out for early signs of Ovarian Cancer, greatly increasing the likelihood of Traveller women understanding when they need to seek help.

Helen Collins, a Traveller Primary Health Care Worker who participated in the Foundation’s Cervical Cancer Workshop stated, “I always thought when they did the screenings for cervical cancer that they’d pick up ovarian cancer. But we now know that’s not the case; ovarian and cervical cancer are two different cancers of two different areas. This is really important information for Traveller women to know.”

Education about the early warning signs of cancer and the steps we can all take to reduce our risk is a cornerstone of the work the Marie Keating Foundation undertake in communities across Ireland.

Director of Nursing Services at the Marie Keating Foundation, Helen Forristal explainswe have been privileged over the last 12 months to work with organisations like Pavee Point to help close the gap in cancer care. A lack of tailored and culturally sensitive cancer information is a huge deterrent when it comes to members of different communities seeking advice from medical professionals. Through our peer led cancer education presentations and targeted free resources, we are hoping to make cancer less frightening by enlightening and give all people in Ireland the basis of information, and the confidence they need to advocate for their own health and speak to a GP when they notice a change.”

The workshops also saw a change in how comfortable participants were when it came to discussing cancer within their own community as Mary-Brigid Collins, Assistant Coordinator of Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre’s Primary Health Care Project explains: “Initially, only 33%[3] of the Travellers that took part in our workshops with the Marie Keating Foundation said they felt they would be comfortable talking to a Traveller man about the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer. This doubled to 66% in the weeks following our engagement with a Marie Keating Foundation nurseThis shows that services like these, along with the work our own Traveller Primary Health Care Workers are doing, can create real change when it comes to reducing the numbers of Traveller men and women losing their lives to cancer.”

The Marie Keating Foundation, is committed to ensuring that at least 30% of their community education work is delivered to marginalised or underserved communities, where health inequalities and cancer incidence are highest. This work over the last 12 months has been made possible with thanks to Deloitte.

The Marie Keating Foundation relies on fundraising and public donations to fund 98.5% of its work including its focus on underserved communities.

This new year as a part of their cancer prevention campaign , the Marie Keating Foundation have established the  Your Health, Your Choice Challenge, asking registrants to sign up to the challenge for just €20 and commit to completing the recommended 10,000 step a day, for 20 days.

All funds raised from the Challenge will go directly back into the Foundation’s community outreach work, allowing their nursing team to continue to bring lifesaving information about cancer prevention and awareness to communities across Ireland, free of charge.

[1] https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article/35/4/533/1685437

[2] Pavee Point Survey, undertaken September 2021 with 22 participants

[3] Pavee Point Survey, undertaken September 2021 with 22 participants