Griffith improves community health care access

Providing Australia’s multicultural society with improved access to health services is the focus of Griffith University research.

Selected by Snapshot as one of ten projects that demonstrate the potential impact of research on the health of Australians in 2014, the Community Navigator Model (CNM) is being developed by Associate Professor Saras Henderson and Professor Elizabeth Kendall. Snapshot is the 7th in a series of publications produced by The Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (PHCRIS).

Developed in collaboration with multicultural coordinators MultiLink Community Services in Logan-Beaudesert and Queensland Health, the CNM comprised nine bilingual community ‘navigators’ from Sudanese, Burmese and Afghan and Pacific Islander communities who were trained to conduct weekly learning circles within the community.

“The navigators were placed within targeted communities to assess client needs, facilitate health promotion and support community members in accessing health services,” says Associate Professor Henderson from the Griffith Health Institute.

“Navigators also supported general practitioners in using interpreters and encouraging high risk members in the community to seek medical advice.”

Extremely poor health among CALD population

Associate Professor Henderson says that the health and welfare of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) population is extremely poor. “Rates of chronic disease among people from CALD backgrounds are much greater than that of the total population and their use of health services is extremely low.”

Following implementation, the model was evaluated to explore navigators’ experiences. The findings revealed that the approachability of the navigators allowed limitless community access, enabling them to become knowledge brokers, with first hand insights into the social factors relating to health conditions among CALD populations.

“The CNM has led to an improved understanding of primary health services among the CALD communities targeted in this study, including improved communication as a result of interpreted consultations, increased trust in the health system, greater knowledge about services and expanded cultural understanding within the health care system,” says Associate Professor Henderson.

However, she says there remains a need for further research into the model. “We are currently reflecting on the model and its implementation and have pinpointed several modifications that are needed including providing more community involvement so that more people can become knowledgeable about the issues. We certainly need a more community-centred model.”