Exploring the development of an appropriate women's health service for Mt Isa City: report to the Queensland Nursing Council Research Committee

Croker, Felicity, O'Connor, Teresa, Usher, Kim, Harvey, Nichole, Wilson, Christine, and Sellen, Judith (2002) Exploring the development of an appropriate women's health service for Mt Isa City: report to the Queensland Nursing Council Research Committee. Report. James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

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This project explored the appropriateness of women's health services in Mt Isa city. The intention was to assess the current provision of health services to women and identify any areas in which these could be strengthened. For this purpose, information was gathered from general practitioners, nurses, health workers, community agencies and women consumers from ethnic and indigenous backgrounds. Where gaps in service provision were identified, the project team involved both health providers and women within the community to collaboratively develop recommendations for women's health care services that would be more appropriate to the community's diverse needs. Health professionals from Townsville, Cairns and Mt Isa formed the project team. Several novice researchers in the team benefited from mentoring during this research experience. Using a participatory action approach, data were collected using both interviews and focus groups. Findings were disseminated to participants and recommendations developed collaboratively. The population of this remote mining centre includes a large Aboriginal community along with migrants from 32 countries. Women in rural and remote areas have been identified as having a poorer health status than those in metropolitan districts. Well documented contributing factors include geographic and social isolation, distance from specialised health services, lower socio-economic status, lack of continuity of care and concerns about confidentiality. In addition, Mt Isa city has a significant number of women for whom language barriers and cultural beliefs require special consideration. Anecdotal evidence from local women had suggested that the well women's services in Mt Isa were not meeting their gender and cultural requirements. Health providers within the community supported the need for a woman-centred health service, suggesting that this would increase the number of women accessing screening and well women's services. However, while these assumptions were not well supported in the findings of this study, a number of issues about the appropriateness of services that were of concern to women in Mt Isa did emerge. The study revealed that Mt Isa had a range of services available where women from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds could access Pap smears, breast examination, sexual health and contraceptive services. The main health concerns facing women in Mt Isa city were related to the following areas:

• Lack of adequate information. Many women were not aware of the extent and diversity of services available and neither were the health providers and community agencies. Readily accessible information on available services that was timely and in a language minority groups could understand was required. Hard copy and oral information dissemination through informal networks were identified as being most effective.

• Mental health issues were a major concern for women. Specific mental health issues identified by women include the need for relationship counselling, management of alcohol and substance abuse, depression, gambling, suicide, and domestic violence. These problems exist in a community already challenged by issues of social and cultural diversity, lack of social support, geographic isolation and unemployment. Because of their pivotal role within the family, women highlighted how any problems affecting their families created an emotional burden that impacted on their well being. In addition, concerns were raised about the appropriateness of available mental health services in the city.

• Continuity of care. The transience of health providers led to gaps in services by general practitioners, obstetricians, nurses and health workers. Attempts were made to remediate this through role sharing, however recruitment and retention of appropriately qualified staff was an ongoing problem. This resulted in significant changes in health services between initial data collection and final consultation within the community with both the number of doctors, nurses and, in particular, female health practitioners notably decreasing.

• Particular areas of need identified were related to breast cancer screening and support, access to appropriate services for young teens and migrant women, and the need for transport to and from clinics. It is evident from this study that further research can be undertaken into strategies to improve information dissemination, explore ways to improve access to appropriate health services for young teens and migrant women from non-English speaking backgrounds. Further investigation into participants' perceptions of gaps in the available mental health services is also required.

Item ID: 614
Item Type: Report (Report)
Keywords: women's health, remote area health services, gender and culturally appropriate care
Funders: James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: JCU RA No.0128
Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2016 03:45
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111708 Health and Community Services @ 60%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1110 Nursing > 111099 Nursing not elsewhere classified @ 40%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920506 Rural Health @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920507 Womens Health @ 50%
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