Engaging with International Students to meet their sexual & reproductive health needs

Ms Helen Rogers1, Ms Galuh Sapthari1

1South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Darlinghurst, Australia

In 2018, there were 626,988 international students in Australia, an 11% increase from 2017. International students are significant contributors to the Australian economy, culturally and financially, hence it is important we invest in their health and wellbeing. International students are at risk of sexually transmissible infections and unplanned pregnancies. Timely access to services is exacerbated by limited knowledge of, and how to navigate the Australian health system, and fear of communicating their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs.  The International Students SRH promotion project aims to build the capacity of international students to improve their health and well-being by increasing their understanding of, and access to SRH information and services. The project is a collaborative partnership between South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, education providers, and City of Sydney Council, to facilitate consultations with international students aged 16 years and over, to gain a greater understanding of issues that impact on access to SRH information and services (Ethics approved). Consultation methods included surveys and focus groups with International Students, and surveys of education and OSHC providers,and education agents. To date, 207 completed student surveys and 52 participants in focus groups. Preliminary findings highlight students are uncertain as to how, and where to access SRH services and evidence-based information.  Barriers to access include cost, confidentiality, embarrassment, worry about being judged, and uncertainty as to what is covered by OSHC. Addressing the SRH needs of international students is a priority. The availability of accessible information and services ensures students feel supported to continue their studies with knowledge of how to seek timely access as required. The project provides a model of engaging with international students to best meet their needs. The next phase is collaboration with International Students to co-design an online portal of SRH information and services.


Biography:

Helen Rogers is a registered nurse/midwife with 25 years professional experience in Australia, the UK, with Medecins Sans Frontieres in South Sudan and Sri Lanka, and WHO in Sudan. Helen is passionate about the provision of respectful, woman-centred, culturally responsive care that addresses inequities in access for vulnerable populations.

Galuh Sapthari is the Cross Cultural Worker for Maternity, Child and Family Health SESLHD attached to RHW and Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick and Project Officer for International Students Sexual and Reproductive Health Promotion Project with over 10 year experience in Australia and Indonesia. Galuh previously worked for the United Nations International Organization for Migration, International Planned Parenthood, AIDS Council NSW, Oxfam and Sydney Local Health District.

ABOUT THE ASSOCIATION

ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education. For more information, please visit the ISANA website.

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