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Increasing breast screening among women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds

Portrait of Hadi, a Karen refugee in Bendigo.

Women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds have told us it’s not always clear where and how to access health information. While not unique to diverse communities, some have also told us that having a disease is fate or God's will or talking about their breasts can be taboo or uncomfortable.  

Because of these and other varied and often complex reasons, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds undergo breast screening less often than the general population. That is why, at BreastScreen Victoria, we remain committed to reaching women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and increasing their access to breast screening. 

simple but novel strategy for engaging women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds is contacting them in their languages.  

In 2016, we undertook the OPtimise HEalth LIteracy and Access (Ophelia) project. We delivered it together with Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences at Swinburne's Centre for Global Health and Equity, Professor Richard Osborne with funding from the Victorian Department of Health 

The Ophelia project aimed to increase screening participation among Arabic and Italian-speaking women. The Ophelia trial found that women who received a call in their language were around ten times more likely to book than women who did not receive a call, and most women who booked attended their appointment.  

"Health literacy is linked to health outcomes. People with lower health literacy are less likely to be able to find and use the healthcare they need. Ophelia was developed to address this inequality and to test and identify new initiatives and provide organisations with a structured approach to bridge this gap. We do this by taking a people-, clinician- and organisation-centred approach to better understand how to improve our services and systems to provide all people fair access to the services they might need," Professor Osborne explained. 

Today, BreastScreen Victoria makes calls and sends SMS messages in multiple languages including Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Turkish, Greek, and Italian. 

To reach more women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, we continue to develop resources in multiple languages. We also work with community organisations such as Women's Health Loddon Mallee, which has helped us reach the Karen community in Bendigo. AMES Australia, which provides settlement services to newly arrived refugees, and the Centre for Multicultural Women's Health have helped us reach Dari and Arabic speaking women. The Featherbrook Community Hub in Wyndham helped us engage the Hindi-speaking community. Didi Bahini Samaj Victoria helped us reach Nepalese women in the state. 

World Refugee Day is 20 June. On this day, the world stands together to celebrate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. And aBreastScreen Victoria, we renew our commitment to making breast screening equitable and accessible for all eligible Victorians.