A ‘game-changer’ in how migrants are communicated with about health

Today sees the launch of the ‘My Health, My Language’ resource bank featuring almost 200 video messages in 17-languages across 11 different topics in the area of primary care and maternity care.

The scripts have been carefully written to ensure cultural appropriateness, translated and then presented by doctors, nurses, consultants, nursing care assistants and global health specialists – all people who moved to Ireland from elsewhere are who are now vital in our national health system.

The roots of this resource and Translate Ireland can be traced back to the early days of the Covid19 pandemic.

Through his work with the Sanctuary Runners (a movement which uses running, jogging and walking to bring together migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and those in wider Irish society) former feature writer and broadcaster Graham Clifford quickly spotted that there was limited multilingual communication with those in Ireland who spoke little or no English – almost 100,000 according to the 2016 census.

Graham’s wife Catherine, a GP in Cork, sent a Whatsapp to GPs in the country asking if there were any willing to present video messages in their first language.

Within days they’d rounded up a team of presenters – mainly doctors already under huge pressure during the pandemic.

With the support of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) a volunteer service was established called ‘The Covid19 World Service’.

A primary school teacher in Cork, Shane Flynn, believed in the project and worked on editing the video messages and putting together graphics. He worked tirelessly and closely with the presenters to get the videos right and in 2020 alone over 600 video messages were produced across 42-langauges informing people about Covid19 guidelines, rules, restrictions etc.

The work was relentless, late nights, weekends, early morning. They even worked on Christmas Day 2020 as the Government had changed our threat level just days before. The main office was a table in the corner of Graham and Catherine’s bedroom and the turnover of videos was incredible considering the limited means and resources available to the tiny team. But they were determined to get the messages out and to ensure all was done respectfully and in an informed and informing way.

The Covid19 World Service was named ‘Best not-for-profit’ initiative focussed on Covid19‘ at the 2020 Irish Healthcare Awards.

It soon became clear to co-founders Graham and Catherine Clifford that multilingual video messaging could be used in a much wider range of topics and so in late 2020 Translate Ireland was established.

Over the last 18-months it has worked to produce video messages with the likes of the HSE National Screening Service, the HSE Social Inclusion Office, HSE Mental Health Services, Women’s Aid and the Department of Justice.

It has now worked with hundreds of healthcare workers and other presenters and has received interest in its work from across the world.

Last year Translate Ireland was named the ‘Public Health initiative of the Year’ at the Irish Healthcare Awards.

Valerie Linehan came on board as National Coordinator and Dr Catherine was asked to present at the 2022 World Rural Health Conference in the University of Limerick about the work of Translate Ireland and in London at the 27th WONCA Europe conference.

Graham Clifford, CEO, said: “Translate Ireland has made incredible progress since 2020 but the pinnacle is today’s launch of ‘My Health My Language’ with the HSE Social Inclusion Office. This is a world-first, ground-breaking body of work and something we should be very proud of. There is huge benefit to personal and public health if communication is clear and respectful. Its so vital all arms of the state understand this because multilingual, culturally appropriate communication is beneficial to all.”