MCWH launches their first national multilingual health education program

Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health and Australian Red Cross launch life-saving multilingual COVID-19 health education program in Tasmania.  

The program, launched today in Hobart, will see health education sessions delivered in more than 25 languages in eight locations across Australia.  

For migrant and refugee communities, access to in-language and culturally tailored health information can be a matter of life or death.  

Recent data1 has found migrant and refugee communities are among several population groups who are at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 than the general population. 

During the pandemic, people who died of COVID-19 and were born overseas had an age-standardised death rate that was 2.5 times higher than people who were born in Australia.  

This disparity in COVID-19 deaths can be linked to existing health and social inequalities faced by migrant and refugee groups which make it more difficult to access COVID-19 information. 

These barriers include language difficulties, cost of care, lack of culturally appropriate information and unfamiliarity with the Australian healthcare system. 

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) is working to address this through their latest project, Health in My Language, which aims to improve vaccine literacy and decrease barriers to navigate the vaccination system. 

“We know from our long history of working with migrant communities that many of these deaths could have been prevented through culturally tailored, in-language information and education,” said MCWH National Program Manager, Dr Regina Torres-Quiazon. 

“The Health in My Language Project can break down many of the barriers overseas born people face by providing in-language COVID-19 vaccination information and education – free of charge and in accessible locations.” 

For the first time, MCWH is upscaling their health education model to a national level, working with partner organisations across Australia to train and coordinate a team of 44 bilingual health educators to deliver the Health in My Language sessions. 

“In many ways, it’s a dream come true to establish a coordinated national network of bicultural educators,” said MCWH Executive Director Dr Adele Murdolo. 

“Since 1978, when our organisation began, we have seen the impact of health education delivered in a language and style that allows people to feel respected and able to ask questions and share their own experiences.” 

“To see that model now being rolled out nationally is amazing. We want migrant and refugee communities across the whole country to be able to have the same opportunity to access health information in their language.” 

The project was launched with partner organisation Red Cross Australia in Tasmania with The Hon Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care.  

“Health in My Language will empower members of the Tasmanian community to hear health information about COVID-19 vaccines and other health topics in an engaging, accessible and culturally safe way,” said Red Cross Australia State Lead, Migration Support Julie Groome.  

“This enables community members to make informed health choices for themselves and their family.” 

Health in My Language will run until December 2022, delivering in-language and culturally tailored sessions to migrant communities, including those who speak Greek, Italian, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Burmese and Karen. 

“The Health in My Language Project with its deployment of a trained bilingual COVID-19 vaccination health education workforce can literally save lives,” said Dr Torres-Quiazon. 

For media queries or interview requests, contact  

Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health Media Officer, Jessica Roberts:    

1Australia’s health 2022: in brief