A Healthy Start for refugees

Healthy Start participants
Healthy Start participants

Students from Griffith’s School of Medicine have developed a program to assist refugees navigate our health system.

Refugees usually come from non-english speaking countries and conditions so precarious their only option is to flee for their lives. After the months and years of refugee camps or detention they finally arrive to our relatively pristine but utterly bewildering country.

Called Healthy Start, the program has proven so successful it has even begun attracting sponsorship from local not-for-profit, Medicare Local South.

From prevention to a program

Marrillo Jayasuriya is a 4th year student who is heading up the program from its Gold Coast base.

“It really started from our preventative health workshops in primary schools and we started to ask people about refugees and what were people doing to help with their resettlement and getting access to appropriate care,” he said.

“After a lot of work we developed a six part program to help people negotiate our system, from booking a GP visit to emergency care and women’s health.”

The team ran their first workshop in October 2012 and were overwhelmed by the response.

“All our places were full, buy the end of the day people were really enjoying it, honestly it was beyond belief,” Mr Jayasuriya.

It works and its growing

Mr Jayasuriya and his colleagues have begun training Medical students from Bond and UQ to deliver the Healthy Start program as well.

“Beyond the difference it makes in the lives of the clients I think it also helps some of our more conservative colleagues change their views toward refugees.

“You only get that kind of change when people meet and exchange positive experiences, so hopefully it continues to grow.”

Healthy Start are running workshops every month in Brisbane and the Gold Coast