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Health literacy

Parent-centred and culturally competent literacies for health promotion with newly arrived African communities

Researchers: Green, J., Renzaho, A., Waters, E., Eisenbruch, M., Lo Bianco, J., and Popay, J
Grant from Department of Human Services, $100,000

Health promotion initiatives in Victoria have been successful in preventing illness at a population level. However, there is evidence that some culturally and linguistically diverse communities experience health inequalities and are, often unintentionally, excluded from sharing in health promotion initiatives because of lower literacy competence or approaches that do not account for cultural beliefs, values and expectations.  Little is known about how to successfully target newly arrived families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in ways that take account of their literacy and culture. This compromises the broader potential of health promotion to enable parents to increase control over, and to improve, the health and wellbeing of their children and themselves.

This project has been developed in response to calls for research by the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) to assist DHS to better understand the health literacy, i.e. how people access, understand and use health-related information, of newly-arrived African parents in Victoria. Following peer-review it was funded as a 12-month study under the DHS’ Public Health Grants 2007/2008. It addresses what is currently a limited understanding of the health needs and beliefs of newly-arrived African parents by current strategies to promote health and wellbeing of children, thereby breaking new ground. In response to the brief, the research uses a community-participatory approach, that is, it is designed to work closely with African communities at all stages of the study.

This research project will investigate cultural understandings, strengths, literacies and influences on health and wellbeing of newly-arrived African parents and communities. Working closely with African communities, we will research the values and traditions associated with healthcare, the experiences and expectations of African families in relation to health services and health promotion during their re-settlement in Victoria.

The study setting is in 3 areas of Victoria with a high density of African families: northern metropolitan Melbourne, western metropolitan Melbourne and Swan Hill.
The research team will work with 2 advisory groups: 1. an African Review Panel (ARP) (facilitated by one of the research team, Dr. Renzaho, who is a member of the African community in Victoria) consisting of community leaders and parent representatives. The ARP will advise on all aspects of the project, including the literature review, engaging communities, data collection and dissemination of information); and 2.  Project Partners, a multidisciplinary advisory group to ensure input from experts on cultural competence in health, health literacy, community-based service provision particularly for newly-arrived communities, and adult learning for migrant communities.

Key African community and parent representatives, health and welfare personnel linked to local agencies in the 3 areas will be invited to participate in an initial series of community mobilisation forums of one forum of 25-30 key people in each area (up to 90 participants). This will be followed by a series of focus groups. Focus groups (approximately x3 groups) of 8-10 parents/carers and 8-10 key workers (approximately x1 group) will be conducted in each of the 3 areas (total approx. 12 focus groups with approximately 120 participants). Our access to African parent participants will be through the ARP and local African community organisations and networks, and health, welfare and support agencies. We will recruit parents for diversity in terms of their newness of arrival, experience as a parent, gender, sole/partnered status and migration status (refugee, family reunification). Bilingual workers in major community languages (e.g. Ahmaric, Arabic, Swahili) will provide language assistance for African parents who do not speak English.

We will conduct rigorous and transparent thematic data analysis using key steps that will produce the best evidence from the forums and focus groups. We will develop processes for analysis of the data across the research team to ensure rigour, transparency and justification of claims.

The results will form a basis for guiding future health promotion policy and program initiatives to support the health literacy of parents in culturally competent ways.  It is anticipated that results will have a widespread and immediate application to on-going research, policy development and program design, not only for newly-arrived African communities, but also for other vulnerable communities.  


Identification of preferred media for translated health information for Chinese, Russian and Greek patients attending St Vincent’s Hospital and Sydney Hospital/Sydney Eye Hospital

Blignault, I., Eisenbruch, M., and Stephanou, M.

St Vincent’s Hospital, $12,300