Refugee families and the child and family health service, and food allergies: reducing the risk

1 Nov 2012

In 2010-11, Australia accepted 13,799 refugees. However, there has been little research into the experiences that families from refugee backgrounds have with Australia’s child and family health services.

The child and family health service plays a vital role in linking refugee families to communities and services more broadly. Research into refugee families and their engagement with family and child health services is complicated by the following factors:

  • much of the recent research does not differentiate between people of refugee background and non-refugee immigrants, and/or is a broader discussion of a range of vulnerable, deprived, disadvantaged and low-income groups
  • refugees can be accepted into Australia under many different visa categories, complicating the ability to identify who is a refugee
  • furthermore, due to real and perceived stigma and discrimination, simply asking the name of a client’s visa is not a way around the visa complexities as people may not want to identify as being of refugee background.

There is a great need to better understand the experiences and needs of disadvantaged families, and in particular the factors that facilitate or hinder decisions to access child and family health services. 


In Australia and around the developed world, allergy rates are increasing and community concern about allergy is high; a recent study found that more than ten per cent of Australian children had a severe food allergy and around a third of families reported that someone in their household had a food allergy (Koplin et al, 2012).

As the graph below shows, the rise in hospitalisations due to anaphylaxis is common across all age groups, but particularly marked for children under four. The rise appears to run parallel with improving economic conditions across the developed world, indicating that along with the benefits of improved economies and living conditions, there may be less positive side effects (Tang & Allen, 2012).

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