Ausnew Home Care | Young CALD Victorians take health into their own hands

Young CALD Victorians take health into their own hands

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Take yourself back to the starting days of the COVID pandemic.

Your pantry is stoked up with tinned food, you're watching Normal People awkwardly with your housemates or mum, you've started baking banana bread and every day at 11am you turn on your state government's press conference with the chief health officer to hear the latest coronavirus news.

The anxiety is right back there with you, isn't it?

But what if English wasn't your first language? What if you didn't understand where to get your vaccine from or the new words slipping into our vocabulary like "asymptomatic", "flatten the curve" or "incubation period".

Recognising this problem, a group of culturally and linguistically diverse young people have banded together to create health resources for their communities.

Looking at areas of health needing even more focus post-pandemic, the group is creating special resources about mental and sexual health, and cancer prevention.

Girl wears blue jumper and headphones and looks to the camera smiling. A red box with triple j and a drum in white is lit up.
Charlene Peng is part of the mental healthcare team.()

After her own struggles with mental health, Charlene Peng started helping others in the Chinese community access health care.

She has now become a Young Health Ambassador with the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic).

"There are some miscommunications around getting help," she said.

"I have a Chinese friend who came to me and told me that the psychologist that he found would charge $500. Which is very funny to me because I know for sure the most pricey one is $200-ish."

"With my lived experience, I just feel very deeply about people with mental problems."

Miscommunication for youth

The Youth Affairs Council enlisted the help of young people after research within the COVID pandemic revealed young people were foregoing routine health check-ups for a range of reasons.

YACVic media coordinator Katia Pellicciotta said young multicultural Australians often didn't have a regular GP, were nervous about catching COVID in healthcare settings and there was also "stigma and racism that was magnified by COVID".

"As we did more research, we also found that there was incredibly little data about the health outcomes of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds in Victoria," she said.

Hanienah Husna was a part of the sexual healthcare team and brought real-life experience to the cultural and language barriers the Malaysian community have when they're seeking help.

"Someone actually experienced a urinary tract infection … but they just put off and avoided seeing any health professionals because they are in fear of what the doctors might do or what process they need to go through," she said.

"So instead, they just opt to have home remedies, or just put it to life's fate and see what happens."

Girl wears pink headscarf and top and looks to the camera smiling. A red box with triple j and a drum in white is lit up.
Hanienah Husna is a Youth Health Ambassador for the sexual healthcare team. ()

Breaking down barriers

As part of the skin cancer prevention team, Sofiya Khan wanted to raise awareness around the cancer for people with darker skin, which is not well known.

"[Skin cancer] looks different on coloured skin and then we have a hesitancy in the POC (people of colour) community about going for these checks," she said.

"I feel like everyone deserves to be on top of their health to avoid situations where treatment is impossible."

Girl wears pink headscarf and black top and looks to the camera smiling. A red box with triple j and a drum in white is lit up.
Sofiya Khan helped created the skin cancer prevention health resources.()

Sofiya says she knows of a lot of people who struggle with accessing proper health resources, and more needs to be done to ensure people know where to go.

"We're a very multicultural society [and it] will be great to have that reflected in all areas, including health," she said.

The importance of equal access

Chief executive of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) Mohammad Al-Khafaji says there isn't useful and accessible health resources out there for CALD communities – including young people.

"We haven't matured as a nation in ensuring that those communities have accessible, culturally appropriate materials around their health and wellbeing," he said.

"We need to do much better in this area."

Mr Al-Khafaji says the pandemic proved that multicultural people would stand up and fill the resource gaps themselves, but the change needs to start with the government.

"Policymakers aren't very good at engaging young people or people from culturally linguistically diverse backgrounds," he said.

A smiling Mohammad Al-Khafaji outside his office
Mohammad Al-Khafaji()

"And so, we're left with young people from multicultural backgrounds left to their own devices.

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 "What we learned from the pandemic was that young people from multicultural communities are really eager to help out, when there was a vacuum, they stepped up."

 Mr Al-Khafaji say the solution is through co-designing resources and collaboration between the government and young people.

 "Is it really important that we engage young people themselves and ask them what is missing?" he said.

"That sounds really simple, but it doesn't happen enough."


Source: ABC

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