Karen refugees get a healthy start

Newly arrived Karen refugees from Myanmar have received a healthy start, thanks to a workshop in Zillmere in June 2018 supported by Brisbane North PHN.

The Healthy Start Workshop is an intensive health education day for newly arrived refugees run by volunteer students and health professionals. The workshop focussed on preventative health education, with the aim of improving health literacy among the refugees. Topics covered included general health measures, nutrition, visiting the GP, taking medications, emergency services, and men’s and women’s health.

The event was hosted by GP Dr Rebecca Farley, a leading community expert in refugee health and supported by nine medical students from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Towards International Medical Equality (TIME) not-for-profit organisation. It was delivered in collaboration with Australian Refugee and Migrant Care Services Ltd (ARMCare) and was funded by Brisbane North PHN.

Due to the lack of any formal health service in Myanmar, health literacy among the Karen people is generally very poor. This makes it extremely difficult for them to access and make the most of our complex health services when arriving in Australia. A large proportion of adults are illiterate in their own language, and the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder is high. These factors greatly impact their capacity to learn and remember new facts and skills. Towards the end of a very productive day, many participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to learn more, and many of the medical students mentioned that they had previously been completely unaware of the difficulties and barriers experienced by refugees trying to access healthcare in Australia. They had also appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with Karen refugees and to practice working through interpreters.

For more information about TIME UQ visit timeuq.org/refugeehealth and for more information about ARMCare visit armcare.org.au.