Asthma in culturally and linguistically diverse communities: How Asthma Australia is helping all Australians to live well with asthma

March 21 is Australia’s Harmony Day, which celebrates the country’s cultural diversity. This Harmony Day, we want to thank all Australians for caring about asthma, and for caring for people with asthma.

Asthma affects one in nine Australians. That’s one in nine people who live with a lifelong respiratory condition, it’ safe to say most people would know someone who has asthma.

It doesn’t matter what background you’re from, or what community you live in, asthma is there.

In some communities, such as our First Nations Australians and new refugee groups, there are even higher rates than across the wider population.

We want to help.

With about one in three Australians born overseas, and Australians living in a range of vibrant cultures, we know it’s important to help everyone understand asthma better.

Helping all Australians live freely with asthma

Here at Asthma Australia, we have a range of specific projects that target culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Health Project Officer Kawsar Elmir says high-priority and high-risk populations are always a focus for any health initiative, and these can include multicultural groups.

“While we have our specific projects for high-priority populations, it’s something that we try to focus on for all our projects,” she says.

One example was this guide to asthma in Arabic. It was developed after working with the local Arabic-speaking community in Sydney to find out what would be useful for them and help them to understand asthma better.

“We try to develop resources based on their needs,” she says.

Being inclusive is also a focus in Asthma Australia’s day-to-day education initiatives, she says.

This includes a recent training program for school staff to increase knowledge about asthma for all people who work in schools.

Different cultures are represented in the imagery and the animations that guide the training module.

“Being in Australia with such a broad multicultural community it’s really important our standard resources reflect that as well,” she says.

“It’s about that concept of representation, relating and seeing.

Asthma in the Arabic, Samoan and Vietnamese communities: Culture Well

People’s culture and lifestyle can impact their health.

The Culture Well program puts people at the centre of health decision-making and management. At the moment it involves working with three community groups – of people of Arabic, Samoan and Vietnamese backgrounds – who live in Logan, south of Brisbane.

Initial research from the project found cultural differences had a major impact on people’s health and wellbeing, more than the specific chronic disease they were experiencing.

One of the main impacts was mental health, and how that interacted with physical health.

So, we’re working with the communities, and linking in with other health professionals, to boost people’s ability to understand the Australian health system and improve relationships.

The project is ongoing, and we will continue to work in the community to improve asthma and health outcomes.

Harmony Day at Asthma Australia

This month we will be getting together to celebrate our differences in the Harmony Week festivities.

Health Project Officer Kawsar Elmir says one of the highlights among staff is sharing meals and delicious treats from different countries.

“It is about celebrating that we all come from diverse backgrounds but we all have the same ultimate Australian values,” she says.

“It’s a big celebration of sharing each other’s food because that brings people together.”

But, she says, the celebrations are more than just a morning tea, it is about understanding where people come from and how that impacts on their health and lifestyle decisions.

“It’s also about keeping in mind, from a health perspective, the way we can engage and try to reach different groups. We need to implement a proactive and collaborative approach, not coming in from the sidelines with assumptions … implementing these activities in a way that is going to meet their needs and make them feel comfortable.”

To learn more about our projects, click here