Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Consultation with Non-English Speaking Communities: Rapid Bilingual Appraisal

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Consultation with Non-English Speaking Communities: Rapid Bilingual Appraisal

Article excerpt


Government services, including health departments, are insisting that consumers or users of health services be consulted. Linguistic diversity in communities can pose challenges to planners and policymakers in this communication and consultation agenda. This article presents rapid bilingual appraisal as a useful technique for health services to meet the requirements set by equity and access guidelines and legislation. This method was used in an area health service as part of an independent feasibility study. Health services should recognise the need for such consultation and allocate appropriate resources and time to conduct such consultations, and for skilled bilingual facilitators and qualified interpreters to be employed and developed as part of the team.

Aust Health Rev 2004: 28(3): 311-316

A STUDY WAS CONDUCTED to investigate the feasibility of a cooperative model for an accident and emergency (A&E) service in an area health service in New South Wales (NSW) (Braithwaite & Associates 1999). The aim of the 1998-99 study was to report on the feasibility of the application of the cooperative concept to the medical and health sectors, as an alternative to closure or privatisation. Methods included literature review, analysis of census and local government data, inpatient and emergency department statistics, and key informant interviews with local health service providers and managersp, general practitioners, resident action groups, local trade unions and others in the area.

The team was keen to consult residents living near the hospital who had used the local emergency service within the 3 month study time frame. Census data and discussions with health staff indicated that a high proportion of residents were from non-English speaking backgrounds. The most frequently spoken language in the area after English was Macedonian. Given this high concentration of residents in the immediate catchments, the research team considered it important to explore the views of the neighbouring community through a Macedonian focus group.

The case for community consultation

Citizen or community involvement in health policy formation and planning has been on the agenda for nearly two decades (Wilenski 1988; Dwyer 1989; Yeatman 1990; Dugdale 1991). Yeatman over a decade ago saw this involvement as a two-way relationship with a more demanding public, leading to government services becoming "dependent on the active participation of citizens in order to have their demands reflected in the service" (Yeatman 1990, p. 51). Debates have since raged about the theory, policy, practice and potential benefits of participatory administration and management (Putland, Baum & MacDougall 1997).

For health service planners and managers, the case for consultation was first made in a useful document from the Office of Social Policy (1993) as contributing to "good government, good management and good business". Byrne & Davis (1998, p. 41) detailed the ways in which consultation processes assist organisations: through identifying stakeholders; defining the agenda; improving information flow; exchanging views; improving the quality of decision making; improving legitimacy and compliance through ownership; and avoiding challenges.

More specifically, benefits have been listed for health services (IAHS 1997) as:

* higher quality services and projects

* higher profile for health services in the community

* view of health as approachable professionals keen to be in touch with ordinary people

* better informed needs identification and planning

* broader support for health service activities

* fulfillment of health department criteria for consultation with stakeholders

* enhancement of quality assurance activities and approach

* greater accountability for public funds

* potential for development of better quality projects

* wider source of ideas about needs and issues

* greater credibility when lobbying government. …

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