One service, many voices: enhancing consumer participation in a primary health service for multicultural women

Background Consumer participation in primary health care is important in providing quality consumer-focused care, but challenging when working with disadvantaged groups of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Women’s Health Services (WHS) works with women from over 60 different nationalities, including many newly arrived migrants and refugees. New arrivals access a wide range of WHS programmes including medical services, counselling, information, community talks and workshops, referral, and outreach, but few ethnic women attended the alcohol and other drug (AOD) services offered by the organisation. Aim To establish an active consumer reference group to assist understanding and reducing the barriers to AOD services for a heterogeneous disadvantaged group that includes individuals from different cultural, language and educational backgrounds. Results Leaning heavily on experiences from the mental health field, WHS overcame many practical and philosophical considerations which included: agreeing upon the purpose of the group and how it would operate within the structure of the organisation; the level of English language required by participants for the group to function; issues of resourcing the group; and ensuring an appropriate, workable demographic mix in terms of age, language, and migration experiences. Conclusion The process and the outcome of establishing a consumer reference group (CRG) in a primary healthcare setting has been valuable for consumers’ and health service providers within the organisation.


Susan K Lee, Sandra C Thompson, Deisy Amorin-Woods

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