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Group of doctors breaking down cultural barriers to help black patients

Dr. Alum Sheila Uyirwoth, the director of African Health, Australia   -  
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AP Photo


When Rachel made an appointment for a pap smear, she didn't expect to feel neglected. While she knew it would be a long wait, the doctor left without seeing her.

"The receptionist actually tried to stop the GP but the GP's like 'no I'm done for the day.' I was so discouraged, I was so sad," says Rachel.

A colleague suggested she sees a medical professional with an African background.

"When I got this GP, who looks like me, she was so helpful. I thought like someone actually listens to where I'm coming from," says Rachel.

Access to culturally appropriate care is an issue these doctors are working to address.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has stated that lack of access prevents Africans from seeking treatment.

It has produced 'African Health' - a network of medical professionals of African backgrounds, ranging from GPs to psychologists, to dentists.

"We aim to engage with the community to improve health literacy and shed some of that fear or discomfort in going to seek healthcare," says Director of African Health, Dr. Alum Sheila Uyirwoth.

"People tend to feel, safe when they can approach a member of the healthcare setting and are from a similar cultural background," says the other Director of African Health, Dr. Cordelia Oyekan-John.

Most of the doctors on the service are based in the state of New South Wales but the directors of the organization are planning to extend its reach across Australia and New Zealand and provide even more health resources.

"In the future, we want to provide more and more health workshops where community members can get together and actually have an opportunity to ask questions and with health professionals," says Dr. Oyekan-John.

A big idea for a healthier future.

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