PODCAST: Raising awareness of hep B in Melbourne's north
13 March 2018
Meg Perrier, Hepatitis B Outreach Project Officer is running a joint project with Cohealth and the Wingate Avenue Community Centre in Ascot Vale, both to raise awareness about hepatitis B, and to get people at risk treated.
"For those born overseas, more often than not they were born in countries with high rates of hepatitis B," she says in a new podcast from Hepatitis Victoria.
The project at Wingate Avenue has introduced an education program about the disease that has led to the testing of 80 community members, many more than Meg and her team had anticipated, “... a very welcome outcome,” Meg says.
“Each community has a different understanding of what health is, and as hepatitis B is a ‘silent’ disease, the illness can reside until it manifests as liver cancer and by then it is often too late,” she says.
“It is very hard to communicate the need for people to pay attention and be aware of something that is not immediately affecting them,” Meg says.
Earning the respect and trust of the various cultural and linguistic groups at the centre has taken time, but through this process Meg and her team have learnt how different groups approach healthcare and treatment.
The Adult Migrant English Program offered by Wingate Avenue helps people, whose primary language is not English, to learn the language and navigate the workforce and health sector. Hepatitis Victoria is implementing its education program around the work Wingate is already doing.
Meg first introduced healthcare education sessions which were reasonably well attended. The second stage was to hold outreach clinics.
“The idea was to provide some appropriate and sensitive information to the groups firstly, so they could walk away and make an assessment, but we couldn’t have done it alone,” says Meg.
“The support we have received from cohealth -a community-based organisation with extensive experience with minority and refugee/asylum seeker background- has been crucial.
“They are a culturally aware and sensitive healthcare provider,” Meg says,
Three exceptional doctors from cohealth came on board to give blood tests to those at risk, assisted on the day by volunteers from Hepatitis Victoria and Wingate Avenue.
To test 80 people was “...incredible for a day’s work. We were expecting closer to 50 people so 80 was above and beyond,” Meg adds.
Ensuring the key messages about hepatitis B were fully conveyed was vital in the success of the project.
“There was a lot of back and forth, and work to ensure the materials we were producing gave the students a good understanding of hepatitis B, but through this program there have been many lessons learnt –a full evaluation will give us evidence about how we can take the program forward and possibly implement it elsewhere”.
What’s next? “Going through the results to see who needs to be immunised and who might need treatment and help,” Meg says.
Listen to the podcast here.