Monday, 18 May 2015

Primary health care needs of Sri-Lankan born women having a child born in Victoria

SPHPM’s Dr Irosha Nilaweera, Dr Heather Rowe, Ms Hau Nguyen, Ms Joanna Burns and Professor Jane Fisher, with Dr Frances Doran from Southern Cross University, have co-authored a paper in the Australian Journal of Primary Health which highlights the primary care needs of women who are Sri-Lankan born and have a young child born in Victoria.

Becoming a mother involves multiple adjustments, including balancing workplace and personal responsibilities and acquiring infant caregiving skills. These place demands on a woman’s physical and emotional resources.

Health professionals, including Maternal, Child & Family Health nurses, assist women to acquire essential knowledge and skills, monitor the infant’s health and development, promote social connection and strengthen parent-infant relationships. Adjusting to motherhood is more difficult for women who have migrated from overseas. Psychological distress can be exacerbated by social isolation, lack of familiarity with the health system or specific services, and language and cultural barriers to participation. 

The number of Sri Lankans who have migrated to Australia is growing. There are more Sri-Lankan-born individuals living in Victoria than any other state in Australia. There is a paucity of research investigating the experiences of South Asian women living in Australia who have recently given birth, and none on the experiences of Sri Lankan-born women in particular. 

The aims of the study were to determine the current primary care needs of women living in Victoria who were born in Sri Lanka and had a child born in Victoria less than two years ago. A community-based, cross-sectional survey was conducted. Women were invited to participate in an interview which could be undertaken by telephone, online or by post, in English or Sinhalese. Fifty women participated.

Eighty percent of participants had a minimum of one family member, living in Sri Lanka, who visited Australia to assist them after the birth of their baby. However, 62% of participants had infant sleep difficulties, 58% had problems with infant feeding and 42% had difficulties in soothing their infant. All of these difficulties are responsive to assistance from a primary care health practitioner. Compared to women in the general community, women born in Sri Lanka reported accessing fewer health care services. 

The results highlight the unmet health service needs of Sri Lankan-born women who have recently given birth. Language and cultural barriers were identified as obstacles to uptake of health care services. The authors suggest a two-pronged approach to address the problem: promoting awareness of current services in newly-arrived communities and improving cultural competence of service providers.

The article is available in full here:

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