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

Reflecting on the tensions faced by a community-based multicultural health navigator service

Saras Henderson A C and Elizabeth Kendall B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Population and Social Health Research Program, Griffith Health Institute, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, Southport, Qld 4215, Australia.

B Centre for National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (CONROD) and Centre for Community Science, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, Southport, Qld 4215, Australia. Email: e.kendall@griffith.edu.au

C Corresponding author. Email: s.henderson@griffith.edu.au

Australian Health Review 38(5) 584-588 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH13168
Submitted: 6 September 2013  Accepted: 3 July 2014   Published: 7 August 2014

Abstract

The community navigator model was developed to assist four culturally and linguistically diverse communities (Sudanese, Burmese, Pacific Islander Group, Afghani) in south-east Queensland to negotiate the Australian health system and promote health. Using participatory action research, we developed the model in partnership with community leaders and members, the local health department and two non-governmental organisations. Following implementation, we evaluated the model, with the results published elsewhere. However, our evaluation revealed that although the model was accepted by the communities and was associated with positive health outcomes, the financial, social and organisational durability of the model was problematic. Ironically, this situation was inadvertently created by critical decisions made during the development process to enhance the durability and acceptability of the model. This paper explores these critical decisions, our rationale for making those decisions and the four hidden tensions that subsequently emerged. Using a reflective case study method to guide our analysis, we provide possible resolutions to these tensions that may promote the longevity and utility of similar models in the future.

What is known about the topic? The use of community navigators to assist culturally diverse communities to access health services is not new. Many benefits have been documented for communities, individuals and heath service providers following the use of such models. What is not well documented is how to maintain these models in a safe and cost-effective way within the Australian health system while respecting cultural and community practices and reducing the burden of service delivery on the navigators.

What does this paper add? This paper provides a perspective on how the development of community-based service models inherently places them in a position of tension that must be resolved if they are to be long lasting. Four core tensions experienced during the development and implementation of our model in south-east Queensland are explored to develop potential resolutions.

What are the implications for practice? Reducing the tensions inherent in culturally appropriate community-based service models will increase the durability of the approach. By addressing these tensions, we can create a more durable pool of community navigators that can facilitate community empowerment, self-governance of health issues and a sense of community ownership of health services.

Additional keywords: culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, community navigators, health service access.


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