COVID-19 bilingual health education program launches in South Australia and Tasmania

26 August 2022

Australian Red Cross has announced the launch of a bilingual health education program in South Australia and Tasmania in partnership with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health. 

The project, called Health in My Language, aims to improve vaccine literacy and decrease barriers to navigate the vaccination system for migrant and refugee communities.  

COVID-19 has exposed inequalities in the health system, with research showing that migrant communities require more information about COVID-19 vaccinations1. 

Communities who speak languages other than English often have limited access to health information, creating a barrier to understanding why, where and how to access vaccination services. 

This has led to higher vaccine hesitancy among people who speak a language other than English, which lowers trust in the vaccine development process and the Australian health system2.   

To increase vaccine-confidence, Health in My Language is engaging with migrant communities by delivering accurate, multilingual education and information from trusted and trained health educators. 

“People from diverse communities can feel more comfortable when they speak about health issues with someone from a similar culture and with the same language as them. When we feel more comfortable, we are open more to sharing and asking questions,” said Australian Red Cross Health in My Language Program Coordinator Dulce Diaz-Llanos. 

Australian Red Cross is working with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health to coordinate a team of bilingual health educators in both states to deliver the Health in My Language education sessions.  

The health educators will deliver in-language education sessions about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as other health topics including healthy relationships, wellbeing, parenting skills, healthy eating and managing anxiety. 

“It’s an ambitious and collaborative undertaking,” said National Program Manager Dr Regina Torres-Quiazon. “Building national infrastructure for a bilingual health education program could bring long-term benefits that far exceed the life of this project.” 

Health in My Language will run until December 2022, delivering sessions in Arabic, Kirundi, Swahili, Dinka, Hazaragi, Dari and Urdu in South Australia and Dari, Farzi, Hazaragi, Nepalese, Urdu and Arabic in Tasmania. 

“We have seen the impact of bilingual health education in the way people are asking for more sessions on other topics,” said Ms Diaz-Llanos.  

“They ask us to deliver further sessions on healthy relationships, parenting skills, eating healthily, and our health educators are preparing those presentations, including on COVID vaccinations.” 

“We have noticed very high levels of active participation in the sessions. People are interacting with health educators and asking questions, clearly wanting to learn more.” 

In-language health education is critical to help migrant and refugee communities feel more confident in understanding vaccine information and more able to learn and ask questions in a supportive environment. 

1,2Vaccine willingness and concerns in Australia: August 2020 to April 2021, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods

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