Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Improving the ascertainment of refugee-background people in health datasets and health services

Jane Yelland A B E , Elisha Riggs A B , Josef Szwarc C , Dannielle Vanpraag A , Wendy Dawson A and Stephanie Brown A B D

A Healthy Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, 50 Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Email: elisha.riggs@mcri.edu.au; dannielle.vanpraag@mcri.edu.au; wendy.dawson@mcri.edu.au; stephanie.brown@mcri.edu.au

B Department General Practice and Primary Health Care Academic Centre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

C Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, 6 Gardiner Street, Brunswick, Vic. 3056, Australia. Email: szwarcj@foundationhouse.org.au

D School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: jane.yelland@mcri.edu.au

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16164
Submitted: 21 July 2016  Accepted: 11 December 2016   Published online: 2 February 2017

Abstract

Ascertainment of vulnerable populations in health datasets is critical to monitoring disparities in health outcomes, enables service planning and guides the delivery of health care. There is emerging evidence that people of refugee backgrounds in Australia experience poor health outcomes and barriers to accessing services, yet a clear picture of these disparities is limited by what is routinely collected in health datasets. There are challenges to improving the accuracy of ascertainment of refugee background, with sensitivities for both consumers and providers about the way questions are asked. Initial testing of four data items in maternity and early childhood health services (maternal country of birth, year of arrival in Australia, requirement for an interpreter and women’s preferred language) suggests that these are straightforward items to collect and acceptable to service administrators, care providers and to women. In addition to the four data items, a set of questions has been developed as a guide for clinicians to use in consultations. These new approaches to ascertainment of refugee background are essential for addressing the risk of poor health outcomes for those who are forced to leave their countries of origin because of persecution and violence.

What is known about the topic? Relatively little attention has been given to identifying refugee-background populations in health datasets and health services.

What does the paper add? Four routinely collected data items will provide an indication of refugee background to better understand health disparities and guide service planning and the delivery of health care.

What are the implications for practice? The data items, together with a set of questions for practitioners to use in the clinical encounter, are essentials to the provision of culturally competent health care.


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