I think we've all had that moment when you're in a foreign country where you don't speak the language all that well, you've spent the last 36 hours on the bus ride from hell, you're tired, you're hungry, you could really do with a strong latte from Brunetti's, and all you want to know is whether or not this is the place where everybody comes to see UFOs.
This happened to me in Peru. "Are you sure that's where the UFOs come in to land?" I asked the local man in my imperfect Spanglish. I pointed at the craggy mountain peak rising above us.
"Sí, sí, señor," he replied. "La meseta de no vuelves."
The plateau of no valves? I thought to myself deliriously. What the ...?
Then I realised what the man actually meant: "Yes, yes - The Plateau of No Return."
Aaah. But I did, of course. Return, that is. Which is another story. Honestly though, how hard would it be if you had to deal with language barriers like this every day? And what if you needed to find out about something that was actually serious?
Educating men and women about lowering their risk of cancer can be quite a challenge at the best of times.
The bad eating habits we all adopt, the lack of time to exercise and the pressures of work and family can make some of us feel quite helpless.
But imagine for a minute you have those same pressures, but you're an Australian whose first language isn't English.
How difficult would it be to learn about lowering your risk of cancer (including cancer screening and a healthy lifestyle) because all the information you (or your family) need is in English?
That's why Cancer Council Victoria has teamed up with Diabetes Australia Victoria and the Heart Foundation to launch a new bilingual education program today.
The "Reduce Risk, Live Well" (RRLW) program is committed to raising awareness and providing information on minimising their risk of developing cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
These are three of the major chronic conditions that affect people of all cultures in Victoria and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are often affected more than others due to barriers in language, accessing health information, and differing cultural perceptions of cancer and other serious illnesses.
The program is being trialled from now until the end of November, and sessions are being offered to community groups who speak Arabic, Cantonese, Greek and Spanish.
In 2013 the program will be expanded to include Turkish, Macedonian, and Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Italian groups.
The best part about this new program is that the education sessions are free! As we've said previously, they focus on increasing awareness of cancer and other diseases and promote healthy lifestyle behaviours.
The following topics are covered by a trained bilingual health educator:
• Understanding the risk factors for chronic conditions
• Practical steps to eating healthily
• Practical steps to incorporating more physical activity
• Quit smoking
• Importance of visiting your doctor
To find out more about the "Reduce Risk, Live Well" program, you can contact Cancer Council Victoria's Cultural Diversity Coordinator Dr Martin Plowman at firstname.lastname@example.org
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