23 May, 2024
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Local Arabic community collaborates on tailored COVID-19 health promotion to strengthen immunity

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The Arabic community is taking a proactive step in safeguarding their health, and the wellbeing of loved ones, by co-creating a new COVID-19 health promotion that encourages locals to protect themselves with booster vaccines. Local Arabic speakers collaborated on the new initiative, which has been created in-language and designed to resonate with the specific, identified concerns and interests of the community, to keep COVID-19 at bay.

The ‘Strengthening immunity in community’ initiative was created in partnership with LEXIGO, Australia’s leading translation and multicultural communication agency, and sponsored by the Department of Health and Aged Care.  The goal of the initiative is to encourage Arabic-speaking communities to keep up to date with a COVID-19 booster every 6 months, along with other measures to bolster individual immunity and encourage others to do the same.

Research from local focus groups was leveraged to inform the initiative, with insights extending to the Arabic-speaking community as a whole. However, the initiative touchpoints will be catered to sub-communities including Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi Australians.

Arabic-speaking communities are very close-knit and rely on one another for advice and support. The findings showed that community and family members are the most trusted sources on COVID-19, followed by local doctors from within the specific community. Notably, the research showed Arabic-speaking communities were less likely to be influenced by mainstream communication, and are more likely to be influenced by community leaders such as priests, community organisation presidents and Sheikhs.

80-year-old Amir Salem OAM is deeply involved with the Egyptian community as Chair of the Australian Egyptian Community Council. He is also a Board Member of the Ethnic Community Council of NSW and The Art Australia Council, and was formerly involved in social work and education.

Amir says many Australian Egyptians felt the same as the wider Australian community did when COVID-19 first arrived, with a variety of scare campaigns leaving some members of the community confused and worried.

“I think for six months at least, the community was confused. What is best, what is not? And do we trust, or not?”

Amir would like to see the push to receive booster vaccinations continue so that people don’t become complacent about COVID-19 and its dangers. 

He would also like to see Artificial Intelligence technology used to assist with the translation of future important healthcare materials into specific languages and dialects, to improve how relatable they are to ethnic communities.

“When it comes to targeted health information on COVID-19, local Arabic speakers told us they were heavily influenced by people within the communities, especially their leaders,” said Mark Saba, CEO at LEXIGO. 

“Family is another major trusted source of information among Arabic-speaking communities. Alongside this, they highlighted the importance of media such as TV and radio available in their own language.” 

Zaina Nasser is a community ambassador for the Arabic community based in Melbourne. She’s also an employee of LEXIGO, and has seen firsthand the importance of providing in-language COVID-19 healthcare information for all communities.

She says at the beginning of the pandemic it was particularly difficult for non-English language speakers to locate accurate information. At the time, ‘in language’ COVID-19 health advice was still very new, so communities were turning to any news sources they could find – relying on multiple sources rather than a single source of reliable information.

“That lends itself to… ‘I heard this from over here’, and ‘I heard that over there’ and ‘my country, they’re saying this’… so it definitely spurred a lot of different narratives on the topic,”

Zaina has since played a major role in the ‘Strengthening immunity in community’ initiative,creating in-language COVID-19 health messages  for Arabic-speaking communities.

“We took time to understand ‘what are the key messages we want to get across to these communities?’ And then we went in and we spoke to them to try and get some insights into how we can say these messages in a way that would resonate with them.”

The initiative is part of a series of tailored, in-language health promotion material co-created by communities for communities across Australia encouraging individuals to keep up to date with COVID-19 booster vaccinations and other health safety measures. Materials have been developed in languages including Arabic, Albanian, Hmong, Somali and others, in collaboration with these language-group communities around Australia. 

Vaccines are effective at protecting against severe COVID-19 illness for up to six months. Masks, physical distancing, practising good hygiene and avoiding high-risk settings remain some of the ways Australians can protect themselves and those around them.

Individuals at risk of severe illness should develop a plan with their GP for oral treatments so they can access them quickly if they test positive. For those who test positive or have COVID-19 symptoms, it is advised to stay at home while sick. Avoid high-risk settings like aged and disability care facilities or hospitals, and avoid visiting vulnerable family and friends while unwell. 

For those who need help to recover from COVID-19, the National Coronavirus Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 020 080. Interpretation services are available. 

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