Health professionals in Hong Kong must learn multicultural skills

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 February, 2017, 11:01pm

Ethnic minorities face difficulties when they seek and receive medical services in Hong Kong.

The 2011 population census found that about 6 per cent of our population (about 451,000 people ) are non-Chinese. Many of them face challenges seeking services in Hong Kong if their Chinese language proficiency is not high.

Free interpreters and Chinese language support services may help to ease some of the immediate needs of these individuals when they are receiving medical care.

However, we believe that enhancing the multicultural competency of our health and social services professionals and students is a necessity if we want Hong Kong to be a socially inclusive society. Professionals who are multiculturally competent are more likely to be able to establish a rapport with these patients.

They are more likely to be able to consider alternative service models for people with culturally diverse backgrounds. This can lead to the enhancement of the health care services offered to non-Chinese individuals.

According to World Health Organisation data in 2014, Hong Kong lags behind other multicultural societies regarding the patient-doctor (psychiatrist) ratio. For instance, that ratio in Hong Kong is about 4.5 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, while the UK has 14.63 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, and Australia has 9.16 psychiatrists per 100,000.

There is no concrete data of how many service providers are non-Chinese in Hong Kong. From a service provision perspective, it is highly unlikely that Hong Kong will have many trained non-Chinese mental health professionals in the short run to match the needs of non-Chinese people. So, on top of advocating additional resources to support non-Chinese patients, we suggest that more preventive work should be done as it is known that acculturative stress leads to psychological distress.

Paul W.C. Wong, associate professor; Gizem Arat, PhD student, department of social work and social administration, University of Hong Kong