Push to help immigrants navigate better in the Australian health system

<pre><pre>Push to help immigrants navigate better in the Australian health system

Navigating the health system when you are sick can be difficult, particularly when English is not your first language.

It has fostered an impulse for simplified communication in the Australian health system, with doctors and nurses urged to think about the best way to talk with patients about their care.

75% of Australians who have English as a second language have what is called "poor health literacy", which means they have a weak understanding of what to do when they are sick and where to go to improve.

But it's not just a problem limited to immigrants and newcomers; 60% of all Australians have low health literacy.

60% of Australians do not understand the health system of the country well.

SBS News / Omar Dabbagh

"We know that many people return to our emergency departments with problems related to medications and complications," NSW health and diversity manager Fiorina Mastroianni told SBS News.

"We need to improve communication or make sure that our patients and their families and their caregivers understand the information we provide."

Forgetful patients

Ms. Mastrionni said that patients forget between 40 and 80 percent of the information provided by medical professionals.

"We must make sure that when we disclose the information, people understand what we have said."

The figures have led to the focus for this year's NSW Multicultural Health Week (from September 3 to 9) to clearer communication, with the slogan "Talk, listen, ask."

"Communication is the point at which a health meeting will succeed or fail," said Leissa Pitts, Manager of the Multicultural Health Service in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

"It is up to the doctor to verify that the client understands the information and that they are leaving the hospital or the healthcare environment knowing that they can really go back home and use that information well."

Talk, listen, ask

As part of Multicultural Health Week, she took a class of adult immigrants and newcomers on a tour of Shoalhaven Memorial Hospital in Nowra, on the state's south coast.

The group of 16, from backgrounds such as Tibet and Taiwan, were brought to the room to familiarize themselves with the facilities and learn what to do when a medical emergency arises.

Health professionals are encouraged to simplify language to help patients

A class is done on a tour of a hospital on the south coast of New South Wales.

SBS News / Omar Dabbagh

"This tour is very useful for me," said Yi Ping McCarthy. She is new to the south coast and traveled with her husband and her two-year-old daughter Delaney.

"I know where, if my daughter is sick, where I can go, and if I go to this hospital, who can I talk to first, so it's really good for me."

Ms. McCarthy initially moved to Darwin from Taiwan almost a decade ago, and said she still encounters language barriers at the GP.

"It's hard to understand, and the language is totally different," he said.

"Some professionals I can not understand, even now, sometimes I go see the family doctor and he's just" blah, blah, blah "and I'm like" what? "

That confusion can cause anxiety for those preparing to use the hospital more often, such as the mother waiting for Mai Ngo, who must give birth just before Christmas.

"It's a little [stressful], but I try to relax, so it's good for my baby, "said Ms. Ngo.

"I believe and trust the doctor and the nurses."