Migrant women or women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds struggle to pay for health care in Australia, new research shows.
More than 70% of migrant women and more than half of indigenous women say they cannot afford to see a doctor, compared to 44% of all women.
A survey of 14,000 participants by the non-profit organization Jean Hailes for Women’s Health also found that marginalized groups suffered .
Almost half of migrant, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women said their financial situation had deteriorated since the start of the pandemic, compared to 32% of all women.
Language barriers have been identified as the main reason for health inequalities, with more than half of people from non-English speaking backgrounds unable to find health information in their own language, compared to 29% of all women.
“The results of the National Women’s Health Survey show there is still a long way to go to improve outcomes for women from non-English speaking backgrounds in Australia,” said Costa Vasili, chief executive of Ethnolink, which specializes in Translation services.
Meanwhile, a general decline in mental health since the onset of COVID-19 has been identified among all women, including younger women and members of the LGBTIQ+ community.
Danai Chanakira, born in Zimbabwe, is among the 55% of migrant women whose mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic.
The 21-year-old psychology student from Canberra has struggled with isolation during the lockdown.
“The biggest sign that my mental health was deteriorating was when I felt very unmotivated to complete daily tasks such as work and school,” she said.
Ms. Chanakira said access to health services was difficult.
“There are many barriers such as language, culture, money and lack of knowledge about existing resources,” she said.
Dr Prerna Varma, a researcher at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Melbourne, said income disparity is also a contributing factor.
“So far we’ve seen studies that have indicated that migrant women have lost income during the pandemic or because of childcare responsibilities, or because they have to do odd jobs, so they are essential workers and still don’t earn enough,” she said.
Mary Ann Geronimo, Australian Council of Ethnic Communities Federation, said systemic barriers can be particularly stifling for migrant women.
“We know that moving to Australia can have a big impact on the resilience of migrant women as they face isolation and unknown systemic barriers that lead to poorer health outcomes,” she said. .
Last month, the state governments of New South Wales and Victoria announced they would open additional urgent care clinics amid a shortage of bulk-billed GPs.
Ahead of the federal election in May, Anthony Albanese has pledged to test 50 bulk-billed urgent care clinics across the country, including 13 in New South Wales.
Readers looking for mental health support can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at . supports people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.