A New Zealand-first cancer survivorship programme in
Dunedin which dispenses free GP visits could be a model for
others, facilitator Dr Sue Walthert says.
Bridge to Health was different from other post-cancer
programmes as it involved GP care, rather than dispensing
general ''living well'' advice.
Increasingly, GPs are involved with oncology, and the
programme included three vouchers for GP visits. Attending a
GP as a follow-up to cancer treatment was affected by
perceptions that GPs knew less than specialists. Also, unlike
GPs, hospital appointments were free. This was why the
programme attracted $60,000 from the disestablished Well
Dunedin Primary Health Organisation, used solely for the
vouchers. A long-term funding solution was needed if the
programme became permanent.
The initiative had strong links with oncologists, one of the
groups that could refer to the programme.
Dr Walthert, a breast cancer survivor, has written a paper
based on a programme audit which she hopes to publish in a
The programme strongly extols the benefits of exercise.
The biggest single barrier reported by participants was a
lack of exercise programmes for them in Dunedin, she said.
With the exception of Expinkt, a University of Otago school
of physical education breast cancer exercise project,
opportunities were scarce. Bridge to Health participants
attend a seminar covering cancer survivor evidence. The
seminar helped ''normalise the awful'', and introduced a
series of four subsequent workshops.
The workshops were nutrition; physical activity; sexuality
and intimacy; emotional and spiritual.
Participants were grateful for the straightforward approach,
which included talking about embarrassing things and ''not
hiding from difficult topics'', she said.
Participants found the spiritual section the most
confronting, although most misgivings were allayed once the
concept was explained. Spirituality pertained to activities
people found meaningful, rather than holding religious
Dr Walthert would like to see the programme developed in
Central Otago and Southland, and would not be surprised to
see similar programmes emerge in other parts of the country.
She has recommended refinements including streamlining the
referral process, raising awareness with the health sector
and NGOs, and encouraging the development of resources for
GPs to use when working with cancer survivors.