‘They are a very, very high risk group.’

A Sydney pharmacist has spoken out about health issues among culturally and linguistically diverse communities for Multicultural Health Week

Veronica Nou, a Western Sydney community pharmacist and NSW Humanitarian Award recipient, has spoken with NPS MedicineWise medical adviser and GP Dr Anna Samecki for a new podcast.

This week (7-11 September 2020) is NSW Multicultural Health Week, with a focus on health literacy and the safe use of medicines.

Ms Nou told NPS MedicineWise that she does a great deal of work with refugees, asylum seekers and CALD [culturally and linguistically diverse] communities.

“They are a very, very high risk group with very, very complicated issues on top of the normal issues that are facing us all at the moment at this pandemic. Most of the issues are either cultural or to do with language,” she said.

Here are three interesting highlights from Ms Nou on the podcast:

  1. Overcoming language barriers: “There is this amazing resource which is available free of charge to any community pharmacy that registers, and that’s the TIS, the Translating and Interpreting Service. It’s very simple. You have the patient in front of you, you figure out what language it is that they’re fluent in, you dial a number, you give them your code over the phone, and then within a matter of minutes there’s someone on the phone who you can put on speaker phone and you can have a three-way conversation.”
  2. Overcoming embarrassment: “[Pharmacy] is a much less formal environment and so therefore it can be way less confronting than going into even a GP’s practice or even into a specialist’s office,” said Ms Nou. She shared the story of a Greek man who was culturally ashamed and embarrassed about his erectile dysfunction and unable to speak with his GP about it. He approached the pharmacy for help. “There is something to establishing that personal relationship with people so you can overcome these cultural and personal levels of embarrassment, and then you can convince them to seek the help they need and you can guide them down the path for the attention that they require.”
  3. Reaching out during the COVID pandemic: “Because a lot of the communities that I work with are very, very vulnerable already, they don’t consider COVID to be the main issue ahead of them,” said Ms Nou. “You really have to reach out and engage these people. Many CALD communities are very, very family-centric. They’re focused on looking after the family as a whole. So if you couch messages in those values … then that’s far more resonant.”

Listen to the full podcast here

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