Cancer rehabilitation and palliative care for socially vulnerable patients in Denmark: an exploration of practices and conceptualisations

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Background: Despite a tax-funded, needs-based organisation of the Danish health system, social inequality in cancer rehabilitation and palliative care (PC) has been noted repeatedly. Little is known about how best to improve access and participation in cancer rehabilitation and PC for socio-economically disadvantaged and socially vulnerable patients. Aim: To gather, synthesise and describe practice-orientated development studies presented in Danish-language publications and examine the underpinning conceptualisations of social inequality and vulnerability; explore related views of stakeholders working in the field. Methods: The study comprised a narrative review of Danish-language literature on practice-orientated development studies which address social inequality and vulnerability in cancer rehabilitation and PC and an online stakeholder consultation workshop with Danish professionals and academics working in the field. Results: Two themes characterise the included publications (n = 8): types of interventions; conceptualisations of social inequality and vulnerability; three themes were identified in the workshop data: focus and type of interventions; organisation of cancer care; and vulnerability of the healthcare system. The publications and the workshop participants (n = 12) favoured approaches which provide additional individualised resources throughout the cancer trajectory for this patient group. The terms social inequality and social vulnerability are largely used interchangeably, and associated with low income and no or little education yet qualified with multiple descriptors, which reflect the diverse socio-economic situations professionals encounter in cancer patients and their psychosocial needs. Conclusion: Addressing social inequality and vulnerability in cancer rehabilitation and PC in Denmark entails practical and conceptual challenges. Of importance is individualised support and the integration of rehabilitation and PC into standardised care pathways. To conceive of social vulnerability as a layered, dynamic, relational and contextual concept reflects current practice in identifying the diversity of cancer patients who may benefit from additional support in accessing and participating in rehabilitation and PC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© The Author(s), 2022.

    Research areas

  • cancer care pathway, ethics, palliative supportive care, rehabilitation, social conditions, socio-economic factors, stakeholder perspective

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