Multicultural Health speaks volumes in clear COVID messaging

WSLHD Translation Services team members (from left) Korean translator Sophia Ra, manager and Arabic translator Eva Melhem and Mandarin translator Kenny Wang.

Imagine navigating the sea of COVID-19 health information in a different language. Daunting right?

Enter Multicultural Health.

Since the pandemic’s onset in March, the team’s dedicated staff have helped culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities understand countless COVID messages and restrictions.

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Their work – via a raft of communication methods – has assisted in allaying migrant and refugee fears, misconceptions and concerns around their ability to manage the crisis.

And all this in more than 22 languages.

Multicultural Health services manager Monika Latanik (right) at a computer program graduation with participant Fawzia Eltigani and African communities program officer Abulla Agwa.

Multicultural Health services manager Monika Latanik said the team worked specifically with vulnerable communities with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 

“Our service improves people’s ability to navigate and access the health system,” she said.

But like most facets of life in 2020, COVID-19 has become the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) team’s main focus area.

“One of our first initiatives was to co-design video resources with community leaders and members to make sure key COVID messages were well understood and accepted by communities,” Monika said.

“The service has helped ensure CALD communities, especially people with settlement, language and literacy-related struggles, are not left behind and receive up-to-date-information from trusted and reliable sources.”

Multicultural Health’s translation service has been key to this success.

“From the beginning of the COVID pandemic, our translation service has been working long hours to ensure translated messages are available to our patients, consumers and communities,” Monika said.

“This includes messages in some rare languages spoken by small minority ethnic groups.”

One of the latest initiatives undertaken by the service is the development of video messages around COVID-19 testing and the right way to wear a mask.

Multicultural Health computer program graduate Afaf Khogai.

The mask video, to be made available in more than 25 languages, engaged community members, bilingual staff and educators.

Other key COVID-19-related work targeted by Multicultural Health has included:

  • Rapid consultation surveys and community consultations to help better understand communities and assist in developing more targeted responses.
  • Radio interviews in-language around COVID messaging using bilingual community educators.
  • Introducing alternate ways of delivering community health education, including digital platforms.
  • Mental health awareness sessions in partnership with Transcultural Mental Health Centre.
  • Regular consultations and updates to community leaders, religious leaders and multiple community partner networks.

These networks to keep communities COVID-safe included partnerships with the Refugee Health Coalition, African Health Reference Group, Afghan Health Network, TAFE and community migrant resource centres.

“Strategies employed need to be sensitive to different cultural, linguistic and literacy needs of each community, their attitudes to health and level of understanding and experience with our health system,” Monika said.

“Partnering with migrant and refugee communities to improve their health literacy and helping people become more confident health consumers brings great joy and satisfaction to our staff.”

Contact for more information about Multicultural Health as it improves the health literacy of migrant and refugee communities.