Family inclusive approach needed in work with Afghan refugees (Australia)

afghan refugee

A qualitative study was conducted involving Afghan refugee men, women and health professionals caring for them in Melbourne, Australia. The study found that in this environment the men took a more active role in maternal healthcare than they would have done in Afghanistan, where family structures and traditions would have kept their role separate.

The research was led by Elisha Riggs and Jane Yelland of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia in partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House).

Some of the 34 health professionals interviewed took an active role in engaging with fathers, given his key role in supporting the mother. And when this happened the men appreciated it strongly:

“The nurses were very kind and nice and they worked very hard to serve us. I think if there was anything in the world that could be done they would do it for us. . . their support gave me good feeling and I could provide moral support to my wife.”

Health professionals reported handing out information about smoking, first aid, parenthood, mental health and details of a men’s helpline.

But out of the 14 men interviewed only five said they had been asked about their own feelings of sadness and stress. Only 1 was asked about financial worries, 2 about legal problems at home, 2 about relationship problems at home, 3 about housing problems and 4 about violence at home.

Some health workers did not feel it was their role to provide support to the husband, despite the high levels of interdependence in these families.

The researchers conclude that it is necessary to have a more “family inclusive” approach with these families who are likely to be experiencing multiple stresses related to settling in their new country. One strategy is to work with professional interpreters to ensure women are able to raise issues important to them with a health professional. This was sometimes challenged when the husband was also the interpreter for a health consultation.


Riggs E, Yelland J, Szwarc J, Wahidi S, Casey S, Chesters D, Fouladi F, Duell-Piening P, Giallo R & Brown S (2015), Fatherhood in a new country: a qualitative study exploring the experiences of Afghan men and implications for health services, Birth

Photo: Hadi Zaher. Creative Commons.