Accessing ethnic minorities in public health
Detailed description of the Good Practice
In the City of Copenhagen, about 14% of the population originates from non-OECD countries. They come from a great variety of countries. Due to language and cultural constraints, these people have little access to public health information. They also seem to lack opportunities for engaging in everyday dia-logues on lifestyle and changes in lifestyle. The Copenhagen City Council decided in 2003 that services should be developed that would allow ethnic minorities access to health information and targeted services.
The project ‘’Health in Your Own Language’’ is an attempt to meet this political goal based on the method of peer education. The Copenhagen Office of Public Health has trained 44 lay health educators with an ethnic minority background. Their ages vary from 20 to 50 years. They cover the seven largest foreign languages: Urdu, Turkish, Kurdish, Farsi, Arabic, Somali and the Berber languages. The group received a 100-hour course covering physical exercise, nutrition, smoking, dental and reproductive health and health communication.
They now hold meetings for the target group in which they talk about health issues and engage the participants in conversations on lifestyle. Support material has been developed, such as a DVD with a phy-sical exercise programme in Urdu, Somali, Arab and Turkish. Collaboration has been established with representatives in key settings where ethnic minorities meet (language schools, employment centres, activity centres and associations of ethnic minorities). During the first year, the health educators held 270 meetings in these settings with an average of 18 participants. The project began in 2005. After a two-year pilot phase, the project has now become a permanent service of the Office of Public Health.
By September 2007 the project has been running for 2½ years and has been subject to continuous monitoring and evaluation. The main results are as follows:
• The willingness of educators is present: In terms of interest for joining the health educator training and working as health educator the intervention has been successful.
• The demand is considerable: During the first year the health educators held 230 meetings in Copenhagen with an average of 18 participants. It seems that the demand continues at the same level. In the first half of 2007 the educators have held 153 meetings.
• User satisfaction seems to be fine: A random test among 92 users showed that 98% enjoyed participating in a health educator meeting and 93% had heard something new about health issues.
• A new body of knowledge: The group of health educators has come to constitute a body of knowledge on ethnic minorities as a target group that employees in Public Health Office use in various ways
• Access to target group successful: Using personal and direct networks has allowed for access to qualified health educators. Moreover the demand and the number of participants in the sessions confirm that the Public Health Office has been successful in getting access to a target group we did not reach before
In conclusion, this intervention has enabled the Public Health Office to get access to a target group that we did not meet much beforehand. There is still work to be done in terms of development and refinement, but a track has been found.
Objectives of the Good Practice
The objective was to create the health services which should be developed that would allow ethnic minorities access to health information and targeted services.
Participants of the Good Practice
The main actors were: Office of Public Health as the idea owner and coordinator, the health educators and the representatives of the ethnic minorities.
Target group of the Good Practice
The target group were representatives of ethnic minorities living in Copenhagen. 14% of the population originates from non-OECD countries. They come from a great variety of countries. Due to language and cultural constraints, these people have little access to public health information.
More Details of the Good Practice
Birgitte Gade Koefoed
Depuyt head of department
MD, public health specialist, PhD
Health and Care Administration
City of Copenhagen
2200 Copenhagen N
Telephone: 35 30 37 33
Data sources and references
Baltic Region Healthy Cities Association
WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Health in the Baltic Region