Culturally and linguistically diverse peoples' knowledge of accessibility and utilisation of health services: exploring the need for improvement in health service delivery

Saras Henderson, Elizabeth Kendall
Australian Journal of Primary Health 2011, 17 (2): 195-201
With 28% of Australia's population having a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background, the health system faces an increasing challenge to provide accessible and culturally competent health care. The view that all CALD communities are homogenous and solutions can be developed for the entire nation is detrimental. Despite available health services, CALD communities are reluctant to use them due to cultural differences, perceived racism and misunderstandings leading to the existing health disparities. Therefore, gathering data from four prominent CALD communities, such as the Sudanese, Afghani, Pacific Islander and Burmese communities in Logan, Queensland, about how they perceive and use health services can provide insightful information towards development of a service model that will better suit these CALD communities. The objective of the study was to examine the extent to which four prominent CALD communities (Sudanese, Afghani, Pacific Islander and Burmese) access and use health services in Logan, Queensland. Six focus group interviews using interpreters were conducted in English with Sudanese, Afghani, Pacific Islander and Burmese people. The results indicated that even long-standing CALD communities, such as the Pacific Islander people, were unfamiliar with health services and experienced difficulties accessing appropriate health care. Most wanted doctors to use traditional healing methods alongside orthodox medicine, but did not feel respected for their beliefs. Language difficulties impeded communication with health professionals who were hindered by ineffective use of interpreters. In conclusion, a clear role for bilingual community-based navigators was identified by CALD participants to address concerns about the health system, and to improve accessibility and health service usage.

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