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

Health professionals’ views on health literacy issues for culturally and linguistically diverse women in maternity care: barriers, enablers and the need for an integrated approach

Jo-anne Hughson A E , Fiona Marshall B , Justin Oliver Daly B , Robyn Woodward-Kron C , John Hajek A and David Story D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia. Email: j.hajek@unimelb.edu.au

B Western Health, Sunshine Hospital, Furlong Road, St Albans, Vic. 3021, Australia. Email: fiona.marshall@wh.org.au; oliver.daly@wh.org.au

C Department of Medical Education, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia. Email: robynwk@unimelb.edu.au

D Department of Medicine and Radiology, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia. Email: dastory@unimelb.edu.au

E Corresponding author. Email: hughson@unimelb.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17067
Submitted: 2 March 2017  Accepted: 8 August 2017   Published online: 30 October 2017

Abstract

Objective To identify health literacy issues when providing maternity care to culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women, and the strategies needed for health professionals to collaboratively address these issues.

Methods A qualitative case study design was undertaken at one large metropolitan Australian hospital serving a highly CALD population. Semistructured interviews were conducted with a range of maternity healthcare staff. The data were analysed thematically. The study is informed by a framework of cultural competence education interventions for health professionals and a health literacy framework.

Results Eighteen clinicians participated in the interviews (seven midwives, five obstetricians, five physiotherapists, one social worker, and one occupational therapist). Emergent themes of health literacy-related issues were: patient-based factors (communication and cultural barriers, access issues); provider-based factors (time constraints, interpreter issues); and enablers (cultural awareness among staff, technology).

Conclusions There are significant health literacy and systemic issues affecting the hospital’s provision of maternity care for CALD women. These findings, mapped onto the four domains of cultural competence education interventions will inform a technology-delivered health literacy intervention for CALD maternity patients. This approach may be applied to other culturally diverse healthcare settings to foster patient health literacy.

What is known about the topic? There are health inequities for pregnant women of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Low health literacy compounded by language and cultural factors contribute to these inequities and access to interpreters in pregnancy care remains an ongoing issue. Pregnancy smart phone applications are a popular source of health information for pregnant women yet these apps are not tailored for CALD women nor are they part of a regulated industry.

What does this paper add? This paper provides clinician and language service staff perspectives on key health literacy issues that are both patient-based and provider-based. This research confirms that the complex interplay of social and practical factors contributes to and perpetuates low health literacy, creating barriers to health access; it also highlights several enablers for increasing CALD health literacy and access. These include greater health practitioner awareness and accommodation of CALD women’s needs and the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate eHealth resources.

What are the implications for practitioners? eHealth resources are emerging as valuable enabling tools to address the health literacy and information needs of pregnant women. However, these resources need to be used adjunctively with health practitioner communication. Both resource developers and health practitioners need to understand issues affecting CALD patients and their needs. Developers need to consider how the resource addresses these needs. Training of health professionals about culture-specific issues may help to enhance communication with, and therefore health literacy among, individual cultural groups. Further, formalised language and interpreting training of bi- or multilingual health professionals is advised to ensure that they are able to interpret to a professional standard when called on to do so.

Additional keywords: cell phones, cultural competence, eHealth, equity, health professional education, health systems, Internet, maternity services, migrants, smartphone.


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