John Day

John Day


Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson


    Report puts migrant health under the microscope

    10/03/2000 8:00 AM

    A new report on the state of migrant health in Western Australia will help determine the needs of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

    Health Minister John Day and Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Rob Johnson, launching the Migrant Health Review today, said poor language skills prevented some migrants from accessing health services.

    Mr Day said almost 30 per cent of Western Australians were born overseas.

    He said the high number of migrants in WA demonstrated the need and urgency for the Migrant Health Review.

    The review, commissioned by the Multicultural Access Unit attached to the Health Department of WA, found:
    • immunisation rates were lower in families where both parents were born in non-English speaking countries. In cases of whooping cough, polio and tetanus, vaccination rates could be 10 per cent lower;
    • non-English speaking migrants were less likely to see a dentist or have their hearing and sight tested;
    • WA migrants all performed better in terms of rating their own health compared to migrants in Australia generally; and -
    • the largest concentrations of people in metropolitan Perth who did not speak English at home were in Wanneroo (32.9 per cent), Perth (32.5 per cent), Fremantle (25.6 per cent), Stirling (22.9 per cent) and Victoria Park (22.7 per cent).

    Mr Day said the results highlighted the importance of having trained language interpreters working in the health system.

    The review found the use of interpreters in WA public sector health services had increased four-fold between 1989 and 1996.

    “The Migrant Health Review acknowledges the contribution of interpreters who undertake training in health and mental health, and the Multicultural Access Unit’s contact officers who volunteer their services,” Mr Day said.

    “The Multicultural Access Unit assists professionals to deliver culturally appropriate and accessible services. It also provides health information, knowledge and resources to educate clients so they can make choices appropriate to their health and well-being.”

    Mr Johnson said the WA Government was committed to ensuring that all people had equal access to essential services.

    He said the review would act as a catalyst for the development of even better services for people from different cultural origins.

    “The problems encountered by migrants through the lack of competence in English can be overwhelming in everyday life,”
    Mr Johnson said.

    “In the area of health care - for obvious reasons - it can have huge consequences.

    “To this end, adequate and innovative language service strategies need to be in place throughout the whole area of health care services.”

    Media contacts: Carole Cowling on 9213 6600 (Minister John Day)
    Fran Hodge 9481 3244(Minister Rob Johnson)