Mental health and a general lack of information about health services were two major areas of concern revealed by a study in the western Queensland city of Mt Isa.
Nursing science academics from James Cook University (JCU) interviewed general practitioners, nurses, health workers, community agencies and women consumers, exploring the need for an appropriate women's health service in the city.
'Mr Isa has a sizeable Aboriginal population, and women migrants from 32 different countries,' said principal investigator Felicity Croker.
'In addition to the well-documented problems faced by women in remote areas, the city has a significant number of women for whom language barriers and cultural beliefs require special consideration.'
Many women and their health care providers were not aware of the extent and diversity of services they could access, so 'readily accessible information, in language that minority groups can understand, is one of our recommendations,' Ms Croker said.
Mental health emerged as another key concern.
'Women have a pivotal role within the family, so problems experienced by other family members have a real impact on their own well-being,' Ms Croker said.
'They saw a real need for relationship counselling, management of alcohol and substance abuse, and assistance for people dealing with depression, gambling, suicide, and domestic violence.'
The study recommended further investigation of perceived shortcomings in mental health services, including concerns about their cultural and gender appropriateness. Continuity of care was also a concern, with the transience of health providers leading to gaps in services.
'Staff have tried to overcome this problem through role sharing, but recruitment and retention of appropriately qualified staff is an ongoing problem,' Ms Croker said.
The team observed significant changes in the availability of health services over the duration of the study.
'Over the year we saw a decline in the number of doctors, nurses and. in particular, female health practitioners.
'One of our participants offered the advice "When in pain, catch a plane", but for many of the women we spoke to, that wasn't an option.'
Other areas of need identified related to appropriate services for young teens and migrant women, and the need for transport to clinics.
The study was funded by Queensland Nursing Council and JCU. For further information: firstname.lastname@example.org