How Our Sexual & Reproductive Health System Is Failing Migrant & Refugee Women

Krystal Neuvill
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds have "lower levels of access to sexual and reproductive health services" than non-First Nations Australian-born women, according to a new report released on Wednesday.
The Multicultural Centre for Women's Health (MCWH) Sexual and Reproductive Health Data Report – based on data and research obtained from national and small community-based studies – stated cost, language and cultural differences can pose as barriers to migrant and refugee women accessing adequate health care.
The report found these women are at greater risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease and are "less likely to have evidence-based, in-language and culturally appropriate information" to help them manage contraceptive choices, menstrual health and their own fertility.
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"Meaningful information in an accessible format and language can be difficult to come by, hindering equal access to preventative and early health and wellbeing care. Such barriers lead to an increased risk of poor health outcomes," said MCWH Executive Director, Dr Adele Murdolo in an official statement.
The report also found migrant and refugee women are more likely to experience barriers to sexual and reproductive health, such as abortion care and support services.
“Prior to COVID, [some] women weren’t accessing their contraception in Australia. They’d go back home and get a year or two worth of contraception,” Dr Murdolo told SBS following the report's release.
“That’s obviously a big fail in the Australian health system, where you’ve got people who live here permanently who don’t use it.”
She mentioned other examples of shortcomings in Australia's health system including migrant and refugee women in rural areas having to "go back for appointments two or three times and there isn’t an interpreter available."
"You can go to a health service in one part of the country where the resources are just very limited. It’s all about socio-economic disadvantage. Migrants tend to live in areas where housing is cheaper, for instance," she explained.
Based on the first report, MCWH has presented some recommendations in another report called, Act Now. Recommendations include investment in education programs run by migrants women's organisations that are delivered to migrant women, and a comprehensive, intersectional and evidence-based national strategy around sexual and reproductive health.
It's time for migrant and refugee women to be a part of the policy-making process that impacts their health.

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