SLHD - Sydney Connect
Cultural Support Workers recruited to help District's diverse communities navigate health services

Help on offer for diverse communities

July 2019

Cultural Support Workers recruited to help District's diverse communities navigate health services

Cultural Support Workers recruited to help District's diverse communities navigate health services

Migrant and refugee communities in Sydney and South Eastern Sydney Local Health Districts will get extra help to navigate health care services with the creation of a multi-lingual support team.

Almost 60 new cultural support workers will share health information with the region’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, where up to 55 percent of residents speak a language other than English.

“The Cultural Support Workers will be absolutely critical in creating a bridge between our communities and the health system. That’s why these are very important positions,” Director of Sydney Local Health District’s Diversity Program and Strategy Hub, Barbara Luisi, said.

The two Local Health Districts are responsible for the health and wellbeing of about 1.6 million people who live within their boundaries. About 44 per cent of people were born overseas.

The Districts have been a long-time home for Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Vietnamese and Chinese communities. There is a large Arabic speaking community and newly-arrived Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Mongolian and Rohingya communities

“We run services to improve the access to health care for our migrant communities… to make sure that health services remain responsive and adaptive to their needs,” Ms Luisi said.

“It’s about pulling together… towards one goal. And, that is to ensure that migrant and refugee communities have the best possible care.”

The Cultural Support Program (CSP) is being jointly funded and supported by Sydney Local Health District, South East Sydney Local Health District and the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN). A total of $740 000 has been allocated to fund the Program over three years.

“CALD communities face a number of challenges in achieving good health and these include cultural barriers, language barriers, and access to services,” Sydney Local Health District’s Executive Director of Clinical Services Integration and Population Health, Lou-Anne Blunden, said.

“When we work together we can develop a better understanding of what is needed for healthy CALD communities.”

Lucy Mukoko works with Sydney’s African community and has advice for her new colleagues.

“The challenge is to make the community interested in health issues. They want to put it aside, ignore it and think it will go away, but it never does,” she said.

The Cultural Support Workers receive intensive training before being assigned to community projects focused on the key health care issues identified across the District. These are HIV and viral hepatitis, maternal and child health, mental health, cancer screening and diabetes.

The team includes workers who can speak languages such as Arabic, Bangla, Cantonese, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Macedonian, Mandarin, Mongolian, Nepali, Rohingya, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese and Urdu.

Their role is to share health information with their communities but also to offer feedback too.

“A lot of their work will be about providing that cultural or linguistic input into existing resources to ensure that health messages that are transferred from English to another language aren’t lost,” Denise Voros, who co-ordinates the Cultural Support Program, said.

To see a video of the Cultural Support Workers in training click here.

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