Multicultural Health Week 2020: Safe Use of Medicine

Michele Greenwood (second from right) with interpreters Salwa Bashar, Yarob Haddad, Nasrin Reza, Bhinder Mullee, Thio Lian Sum Lian Zaw and Clarisse Manishimwe sharing information at Coffs Harbour Health Campus during a previous Multicultural Health Week.


LOCAL multicultural community members struggling with their medicines have new resources available to them this week.

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The Secretary NSW Health, Elizabeth Koff launched the resources developed for Multicultural Health Week 2020 with the theme: Health Literacy and Safe Use of Medicine.

Ms Michele Greenwood, Clinical Nurse Consultant for Refugee/Multicultural Health North Coast Public Health Unit said the resources can be useful for those who are literate in their own language and for those who aren’t the local clinic uses interpreters.

Ms Greenwood is part of the team that has provided care for our new arrivals for many years, initially as the Chest Clinic (Tuberculosis) Nurse, then in February 2006 when she started the Refugee Health Clinic at the Hospital.

She now works with six General Practitioners.

For new community members the translated resources and use of interpreters is vital for safe use of medicine.

“Because many people are illiterate in their own language, they cannot read labels,” she said.

“So they can’t write on the medication box what the medication is for or the dosage.

“However, if people can write in their language, we get them to write what the medication is for and dosage/times onto their actual box of medicine.”

And for those who can’t read and write in their first language?

“We also have found that putting people’s medication in Webster packs works best even if it’s just for a week of medication like antibiotics etc. and especially long-term medication or for carers dispensing out medication to their family members.

According to Ms Greenwood, concerns about safe use of medicine that apply to everyone, not just those in the multicultural community, are patients not completing the full course of medication, sharing medication or stopping long-term medication such as anti-depressants or pain medication after feeling a short-term effect.

“Once they feel better, they may stop the medication and can represent feeling unwell, which may lead to us having to start all over again.”

The main languages in demand for our local area are Arabic, Burmese, Persian, Dari, Swahili, and Urdu.

The new resources are available to download through the Multicultural Health Week website at


By Sandra MOON

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