Consumer Enablement Guide

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Cultural Diversity

Australians were born in almost 200 different countries.1

More than one in four people in NSW were born overseas.1

Nearly 3% of Australians identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.1 Read more about working with Aboriginal people and communities.

It is not possible to know everything about every culture you might encounter; so it is important to always be culturally responsive in your practice. Culturally responsive healthcare clinicians are respectful, perceptive and skilled in communication, reflection, and patient empowerment. Read more about culturally responsive practice.

People born overseas have many different migration experiences and these can affect their perspective, needs and abilities to take care of their health. A person’s healthcare needs and level of enablement can be affected by factors such as whether they are a refugee or a skilled migrant, a new arrival or long-term resident, and the characteristics of their particular cultural background. People born overseas have many different migration experiences and these can affect their perspective, needs and abilities to take care of their health. A person’s healthcare needs and level of enablement can be affected by factors such as whether they are a refugee or a skilled migrant, a new arrival or long-term resident, and the characteristics of their particular cultural background.

The most common overseas countries of birth in the NSW population, 2016:

  • China
  • England
  • India
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines.1

Healthy migrants

Overall, migrants to Australia are healthier than people born in Australia. This is the ‘healthy migrant effect’ and some of the reasons for this are as follows.

  • Eligibility criteria for visas usually include health requirements and age requirements, so migrants are generally younger and healthier than the average Australian.
  • Migrants are more likely to live in urban areas where healthcare services are more accessible.
  • Skilled migrants are more likely to be well educated and come from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, which are positive personal determinants of enablement. Most migrants to Australian are skilled migrants (68.4%) and their families (31.5%).1

The healthy migrant effect diminishes the longer a person is in Australia.

Enablement approaches

You can apply any of the enablement approaches in this guide to people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

In applying different approaches you should always think about the needs of the individual. Consider how a person’s culture and migration experience might impact their knowledge, skills, confidence and abilities.

  • Are they a new arrival or long term resident?
  • What is their primary language?
  • How does their culture affect expectations, perceptions and attitudes towards healthcare treatment, self-management and prevention?
  • How does their culture determine the role of families and communities in their healthcare decisions?
  • How does their culture impact on their health literacy? Are there language barriers? What are their cultural beliefs and values? What has been their experience of healthcare in Australia?

There is often considerable disparity between health professionals’ perceptions of someone’s health beliefs and expectations, and their actual beliefs and expectations.2 Take the time to ask and listen and find out what matters most to them.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2016 Census: New South Wales [media release 27 June 2017]
  2. Walker C, Weeks A, McAvoy B, Demetriou E. Exploring the role of self-management programmes in caring for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Melbourne, Australia. Health Expect. 2005;8(4):315-23.