Helping newly arrived women to access regular health screens

Regular health screens play a crucial role in early detection of some cancers and long-term health outcomes for women. For some refugee and newly arrived women, however, a lack of knowledge about these services combined with language and other barriers can mean they miss out on accessing these valuable services. As the recipient of SA Cervix Screening Strategic Partnerships Grant, and in collaboration with BreastScreen SA and the Women's Health Service, ARA established a short-term but highly effective, program to support Arabic-speaking women from Syrian and Iraqi backgrounds to access breast, bowel and cervical screening services.

ARA's Arabic-speaking bicultural case manager worked with the Syrian community to promote the program and identified over 25 women interested in attending the screening program. The program was designed to raise awareness about the need for screening; provide information about the availability of screening services; and support women to access the screening services. The program also provided information about ongoing health awareness including future screening.

The program included a series of group information sessions as well as an organised familiarisation visit to a GP clinic. Supported by ARA's bicultural case manager, the women visited screening clinics in groups often followed by informal social events such as visits to cafes. ARA's case manager was also able to assist with any further referrals that were required or follow-up appointments.

While this was a short-term project, it has had many substantial benefits not only for the women who took part, but also for ARA's ongoing work. ARA has been able to integrate elements of this program into other projects and programs, improving outcomes related to cervical, bowel and breast screening beyond the life of the grant-funded period. The links established with the SA Health screening team, for example, now play an important role in ARA's community education program, and comprehensive, accessible information was provided at the Health Expo.

Feedback was invited from participants at the final information session and one hundred percent of women who attended this session responded that the program had helped them to understand the need for screening and given them more confidence to undertake screening.