Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Constant connections: piloting a mobile phone-based peer support program for Nuer (southern Sudanese) women

Dennis Wollersheim A B , Lee Koh A , Rae Walker A and Pranee Liamputtong A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Kingsbury Drive, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: d.wollersheim@latrobe.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 19(1) 7-13 https://doi.org/10.1071/PY11052
Submitted: 2 May 2011  Accepted: 12 December 2011   Published: 23 January 2012

Abstract

Refugee women have poor psychosocial health as a result of past trauma and difficulties associated with settlement. This study was a pilot to find out how to use mobile phone-based peer support to improve the psychosocial health of, and facilitate settlement in a group of nine Nuer refugee women in Melbourne, Australia. Nine participants recruited by a community leader received peer support training over two five-week periods. They were further provided with mobile phone recharge vouchers to call one another to practice peer support techniques. The fifth and final sessions were focus groups to evaluate the intervention. Notes from the focus groups were thematically analysed. The women reported greater confidence and empowerment as they received more support, had better connections within the group and better access to information. Relationships with friends, family and the community became richer as they adopted and experienced more functional communication patterns. Using mobile phones for peer support helped to re-create community by bridging the geographical distance that separates refugee women. It allowed the women, from similar backgrounds and with similar experiences, to provide mutual support and exchange information through a verbal channel, the form of communication they are most comfortable with. The program demonstrates the positive psychosocial effect of peer support in a refugee community, and provides a viable model for using mobile phones in health promotion interventions. The successful outcomes, as perceived by the participants, are indicative of the potential of using technology to bridge health inequities in a marginalised group.

Additional keywords: cell phone, refugee, social capital, Sudan.


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