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

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

Developed in collaboration with multicultural coordinators MultiLink CommunityServices in Logan-Beaudesert and Queensland Health, the CNM comprised nine bilingual community ‘navigators’ from Sudanese, Burmese and Afghan and PacificIslander 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 andencouraging 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’sculturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) population is extremely poor. “Rates ofchronic disease among people from CALD backgrounds are much greater thanthat 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 knowledgebrokers, 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 servicesamong the CALD communities targeted in this study, including improvedcommunication as a result of interpreted consultations, increased trust in thehealth system, greater knowledge about services and expanded culturalunderstanding within the health care system,” says Associate ProfessorHenderson.

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