Multicultural Peer Support Workers (MPSW) are trained community workers who work closely alongside clients and health practitioners to provide culturally tailored support to maximise engagement, trust and understanding.
World Wellness Group has developed this unique workforce and we employ approximately 50 Multicultural Peer Support Workers who collectively speak around 45 languages. They work across health programs including mental health, counselling and therapy, health management and prevention programs and consumer focused research. All our MPSWs have undergone generic and tailored training depending on the program they spend most of their time working in.
Multicultural Peer Support Workers are not volunteers but are valued staff members who are required to comply with health program guidelines, privacy principles, code of conduct, confidentiality policies and the boundaries and limitations of their role. Current vacancies are listed at Work for Us.
Role of the Multicultural Peer Support Worker
The purpose of the Multicultural Peer Support Worker (MPSW) role is to draw on their own culture and lived experience of migration, settlement and psycho- social stressors impacting on health and mental health to facilitate culturally tailored engagement with a health practitioner. MPSWs work closely alongside the client under a clearly defined role in each program. However, each program expects the MPSW to help provide all clients with culturally tailored support and interventions, building trust and confidence
The MPSW also has a language skill to the native level (in a language other than English), as well as the ability to speak and understand English to good level of fluency. A large part of the MPSW role includes supporting communication and engagement between clients and mainstream services.
Benefits from MPSW
MPSW are a key element in our model of culture based wraparound services and provide valuable insight into:
- Cultural explanatory beliefs about mental health and health
- Cultural practices
- History and context
- Cultural traditions
- Cultural, verbal and non-verbal communication cues
- Reducing communication barriers and facilitate cross-cultural understanding
- Family traditions and relationships
- Connection to land and spirituality.
- Increase access for people from CALD background with mental health issues.
Our health practitioners integrate cultural advice from MPSW into their professional practice including:
- Cultural meaning about mental health and mental illness
- Traditional practices for mental health and wellbeing
- Traditional approaches to communication, healing and conflict resolution
- Culturally appropriate support around complex issues such as cultural grief and loss
- Cultural identity and meaning
- Cultural communication strategies when outreaching CALD communities and culturally tailored health promotion
- Culturally tailored consumer research and consultation
- Cultural ways of working through client goals and empowering individuals to use their cultural beliefs and practices in an empowering way
- Identify the difference between cultures in relation to emotional expressions, communication, family values and parenting that may be impacting their understanding of mental health services
- Diverse ways of working with individuals to meet their needs and requests for support.
The evidence for Multicultural Peer Support Workers
In the USA, Brazil and Iran, Community Health Workers are fully integrated within the formal health system. However, in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, they are not systematically integrated within government-funded universal healthcare systems, and there are little data on the size of this workforce. In Australia, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework[i] stipulates the centrality of culture and rightly identifies the need to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and the diverse roles required in the health system to improve the health of Indigenous peoples. A comparable framework to address the cultural needs of multicultural population does not currently exist in Australia.
There is however international evidence that multicultural health workers play an integral role in reducing health inequity, facilitating access to services and information and improving health service experiences for minority populations[ii] [iii]. Different titles have been given to community health workers who share the same cultural background and language of the population served – Community Health Workers[iv], Multicultural Health Brokers[v], and Multicultural Health Workers.
[ii] Javanparast, S, Windle, A, Freeman, T, Baum, F(2018) Community Health Workers Programs to Improve Healthcare Access and Equity: Are they only relevant to low and middle income countries? International Journal Health Policy Management, Oct 1 (10) 943-954
[iii] Goris J, Komaric, N, Amanda G, Francis D, Hawes E, (2012) Effectiveness of multicultural health workers in chronic diseae prevention and self management in culturally and linguistically diverse populations: a systemic literature review Australian Journal of Primary Health
[iv] Torres, S., Labonté, R., Spitzer, D. L., Andrew, C., & Amaratunga, C. (2014). Improving health equity: the promising role of community health workers in Canada. Healthcare policy = Politiques de sante, 10(1), 73–85.