Research Provides Communication Guidelines in Cross-Cultural GP Consultations

Thursday, 3 March 2011

NUI Galway researchers have won a prestigious award for their work on the development of guidelines to support communication in cross-cultural general practice consultations. Dr. Anne MacFarlane, Lecturer in Primary Care, Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine has led the Health Research Board Partnership Award with colleagues Mary O'Reilly-de Brún and Tomas de Brún, Directors of the Centre for Participatory Strategies (CPS), Galway and Alice O'Flynn and Diane Nurse of the HSE Social Inclusion Unit. This research has used innovative participatory research methods to enable the meaningful involvement of health service users from the migrant community and health service providers in the development of a guideline to support communication in cross-cultural general practice consultations. This research was recently awarded the Professor James McCormack medal for best research presentation at the Association of University Departments of General Practice Annual Scientific Meeting. This is important research for service users with limited English and their general practitioners who face significant challenges on a daily basis in their consultations because they do not have a shared language or cultural background which results in frequent misunderstandings and communication breakdowns. According to Dr. MacFarlane; "A key finding from the research is that all those involved with the research do not think the current status quo of using family members including children and friends as interpreters, is acceptable. They wish to have access to formal, trained interpreters who are monitored and evaluated in practice." Members of the migrant community from Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Urdu, French Congolese speaking and Nigerian communities in the Galway region, who participated in the research last April, were invited back to the University recently to hear details of the key findings and to provide feedback about the emerging content of the guideline to the research team. Seven representatives of the migrant community have formed a research team with academic researchers. The Service User Peer Researchers (SUPERS) are Khalid Ahmed, Jean Samuel Bonsenge Bokanga, Maria Manuela De Almeida Silva, Aga Mierzejewska, Lovina Nnadi, Florence Ogbebor and Katya Okonkwo. They trained in participatory research methods with the Centre for Participatory Strategies, Galway and this training enabled them to give members of their wider communities an opportunity to 'have a voice' in the development of the guideline, working in their own languages and with SUPERS from their own cultural backgrounds. As one SUPER (Florence Ogbebor) remarked, "This type of research actually brought the voices of the people upstream to the policy makers, where their voices could be heard". The use of participatory research approaches for research based on academic-community partnerships is very innovative in Irish primary care and the involvement of the Centre for Participatory Strategies has been instrumental in the design and delivery of the project. Directors of the Centre for Participatory Strategies (CPS), Mary O'Reilly-de Brún and Tomas de Brún said, "In this research project, we found it very exciting to experience the enthusiasm and creativity of the SUPERS. Together, we co-designed the research process, and culture-proofed all the research materials - this ensured that no migrant participants would be offended by the visual images we use with groups where not everyone readily reads and writes. This is one of the strengths of the participatory approach used, no one is disenfranchised and everyone's voice counts."
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