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Health information made easier

Media releases 20 Oct 2020
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By dropping the jargon and using plain English, a new health education toolkit, ‘My Body. My Health.’ aims to help more women to understand our healthcare system.

Media release (PDF)

Medical language can be complicated for most of us. For women with limited English from migrant or refugee backgrounds, it can be especially challenging.

However, the release of a new education toolkit, ‘My Body. My Health.’, hopes to make it easier for these women to better understand not just their own health, but the Australian healthcare system.

Fittingly, ‘My Body. My Health.’ is being launched today on Drop the Jargon Day, an annual campaign that encourages professionals in Australian health, community services and local government to use plain language.

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Developed by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health (CEH), ‘My Body. My Health.’ is written in plain English and accompanied by some 75 illustrations by Master of Design student Alexandra Gomez, all aimed at supporting women to make informed decisions about their health.

Featuring a series of five PowerPoint presentations, the kit covers the topics of health checks, healthy eating, physical activity, emotional health and vitamin D.

The free kit comes with a facilitator’s guide that can be used by health professionals, educators, social workers or community leaders to deliver the presentations.

From November 2019 until March 2020, the kit was trialled in pilot sessions in Victoria and New South Wales. At the Ballarat Community Health Centre (BCHC), response to the pilot sessions were hugely encouraging, says Akua Ed Nignpense, a refugee health nurse at BCHC.

Nignpense says the women were very enthusiastic about what they had learned. Many had never seen a picture of a bowel before, and were unaware of the value of breast screening, or breast self-examination.

“Many of these women, especially the refugees, have come here with no English at all,” she explains. “If they have to go to the GP, they don’t always understand what they are being told.

“Being able to reach these women in this way is so helpful because it will help to keep them healthy. It is preventive medicine.”

Akua Ed Nignpense, refugee health nurse

In the pilot sessions undertaken by Western NSW Local Health District, newly arrived migrant women were equally enthusiastic about the kit. They believed the illustrations and health messages were good reminders for them to take care of their health.

Jean Hailes CEO Janet Michelmore AO says the launch of ‘My Body. My Health.’ represents a giant step forward in encouraging refugee and migrant women to nurture their health.

“Many women in our community neglect their own health,” says Ms Michelmore. “Refugee and migrant women face formidable challenges because they are struggling with a new language, a new culture and a new way of living. At the very least, this will put their health on the agenda.

“The Federal Government’s ‘National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030’ acknowledged the unique needs of priority populations and the importance of addressing the gaps in service to those women. I believe this toolkit will play a vital part in helping to close some of those gaps. “

Jean Hailes CEO Janet Michelmore AO

The launch of the toolkit has also been welcomed by Patricia Collocott, CEO of North Richmond Community Health, which oversees the CEH. “This practical and easy-to- understand toolkit will help educators to reduce the challenges migrant and refugee women face when accessing healthcare,” she says.

To reinforce the learning, it’s recommended that the women be provided with topic-related resources during sessions.

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Health Translations is an online library which enables health practitioners and those working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities to easily find free translated health information to assist their patients. It is an initiative of the Victorian Government and is run by the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health, providing easy access to an extensive collection of translated health information. The website is a reliable and comprehensive collection of multilingual health information produced by Australian organisations and can be accessed at Health Translations

View the ‘My Body. My Health.’ toolkit here.