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July 2016

Mother and baby jpeg
Burmese Karen refugee Eh Nay Moo – with baby Arthur – is one of the mothers receiving support through Western Health and the Bridging the Gap project.

Improving the future for refugee mums and bubs

Health services are focusing their care on pregnant women from refugee backgrounds under a new Bridging the Gap partnership program.

Women from refugee backgrounds have poorer maternal and child health outcomes than many other groups in the community.

Their health problems include higher rates of smaller babies, stillbirths and complications in pregnancy and birthing, as well as a higher incidence of complex psychosocial needs.

The Bridging the Gap partnership is tackling these issues in projects being implemented in maternity hospitals at Western Health and Monash Health and in local government maternal and child health services at the Cities of Wyndham, in Melbourne’s west, and Greater Dandenong, in the east.

The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute is a major partner in the initiative.

One of the partnership projects at Western Health’s Sunshine Hospital has improved the identification of refugee women and their referral pathways into maternity care.

Before the project was introduced in 2014, general practitioners and hospital staff had trouble identifying whether some patients came from refugee backgrounds because of language difficulties and inconsistent data collection about the women’s personal circumstances.

The project introduced a new standardised GP referral form to capture key pieces of patient data, including the woman’s year of arrival in Australia.

Midwives and hospital clerical staff are also trained to collect this key data when dealing with new patients.

Patients are assigned a caseload midwife who co-ordinates their care in the community and in hospital with a multi-disciplinary team.

The project also includes better interpreter services and education strategies to improve the patient’s understanding of health issues and the health system.

Western Health clinical midwife consultant Tina Pettigrew said the quality of patient referral information had improved markedly since the project began.

Ms Pettigrew said the improved model of refugee maternity care could be useful for other health services.