Cancer Literacy for New Migrants

In what is believed to be an Australian first, an innovative Flinders research project will see migrants enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes receive cancer awareness and prevention messaging in tandem with English language instruction, thanks to a Flinders Foundation seeding grant.

“We know that health promoting behaviours such as healthy eating, being physically active and having regular screening plays an important role in the prevention, early detection and optimal treatment of various cancers, but cultural, language or literacy barriers may make traditional messaging inaccessible to some migrants,” said Donna Hughes, Research Project Officer at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.

“Added to this, some new migrants to Australia know very little about Australia’s chronic disease risks, optimal prevention strategies or available screening resources and services, or might not have the English language skills to confidently access health services or communicate with healthcare providers.” She said cancer disparities existed between different migrant communities in Australia, and not all migrant groups engaged in cancer prevention behaviours to the same degree.

Adapting a similar model that has been used overseas, Donna and her team are aiming to develop a flexible learning resource that will be able to cater to multiple language levels – and be incorporated into a range of activities and learning mediums.
“If found effective, this approach could be a viable alternative to traditional health messaging and another point of entry for health information delivery to migrants.”

Preliminary findings from the small number of overseas trials to date are promising and suggest the combination of health messaging and English language instruction can improve health knowledge and outcomes.

Donna said ESL classes were an ideal environment to deliver health messages.
“New migrants with low functional English proficiency already have access to ESL courses through the Adult Migrant English Program, and they already learn functional language for a variety of services, including healthcare. So this initiative will just build on that.”
“Ultimately, our goal is to improve cancer literacy, prevention and early detection so that we can have a positive impact on cancer mortality and morbidity.”

The development and trial stages of the project have been funded through a grant from Flinders Foundation.

This story was originally published in Southern Health News.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive information on our latest news and events