“We felt she was one of us”: Experiences piloting a consumer mentor model of care for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients with chronic conditions

Dr Bernadette Brady1,2,3, Associate Professor Justine  Naylor1,4,5, Dr Robert Boland1,3, Mrs Balwinder  Sidhu1, Ms Sylvia Yaacoub1, Mr Matthew Jennings1,2,3, Ms Natalie Pavlovic1,5, Mr Toni Andary1, Dr Geraldine Hassett1, Ms Bonnie Ikeda1, Professor Afaf Girgis1,4,5, Ms Ivana Durcinoska1,4,5, Dr  Clarice Tang2, Professor Lucy Chipchase2,6

1South West Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD), Sydney, Australia, 2Western Sydney University, Campbelltown, Australia, 3The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 4The Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, Liverpool, Australia, 5The University of New South Wales , Sydney, Australia, 6Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

Background/Purpose: Patients from CALD backgrounds experience suboptimal interactions with healthcare providers and services.  Innovative and tailored approaches at the point of care to bridge the cross-cultural divide could help reduce the disparity in health outcomes for CALD patients. This project explores the feasibility and acceptability of a consumer mentor (termed ‘natural helper’) program for CALD patients delivered over 6-months.

Methodology: Using a multiple case-design, ‘natural helpers’ from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds (Arabic, Assyrian, Vietnamese, Other) were recruited and trained to work alongside healthcare providers delivering support to patients in the Pain Clinic, OACCP program and outpatient physiotherapy services in SWSLHD.  Audio-recorded semi-structured interviews and/or focus groups in the preferred language of invited participants captured the experiences as ‘natural helpers’ (n=6), patients (n=30) and health care providers (n=6). A Rapid Assessment Process methodology was used to analyse interview data across cases and triangulated with outcomes for patient activation, satisfaction and quality of life.

Results: ‘Natural Helper’ experiences were varied and influenced by three key factors: longitudinal engagement with the service/health-care team, effort-reward balance, and collectivist culture. CALD patients perceived peer support as a beneficial adjunct to their healthcare experiences.  Balancing the desire of patients and helpers for individualised peer support with workload demands/ priorities confronting healthcare providers is necessary if improved clinical outcomes are to potentially be realised.

Conclusion: A natural helper program was feasible, well accepted and benefits the healthcare experience.   Consideration of individualisation of roles that align with service priorities should be the target of the next research phase.


Bernadette is a musculoskeletal and pain physiotherapist holding a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapy Position in SWSLHD and a SPHERE Clinical Research Fellowship. Bernadette’s research focuses on engaging culturally and linguistically diverse communities in research to better improve health outcomes.

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