Project Short Title

Caring for refugee patients: The use of interpreters in primary care

Project Status

Current Projects


Mark Harris


To assess the use of health interpreters in primary care for patients who are refugees.


Refugees face significant healthcare needs including infectious diseases, poor nutrition, chronic non-communicable conditions, mental-health problems related to trauma and social problems including gender-based violence.  Language is an important barrier to appropriate primary health care in Australia and other “destination” countries.  Interpreters are sometimes unavailable or not widely known about or used amongst general practitioners (GPs).  Where informal interpreters are used, they r often found to be inadequate.  Professional interpreters are usually preferred, but issues relating to scheduling were common.  Concerns expressed by GPs and patients included impediments to conversation and concerns over confidentiality in small migrant communities.  Inconsistencies in interpreters prevented the development of trust.  Language barriers limited understanding between doctor and patient, and compromised treatment options.


Participants will be health care providers aged 18 years or older who work in primary care in Australia with an interest in refugee health.  It is being conducted with the support of the Refugee Health Professional Network of Australia and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Special Interest Group on refugee health.   The survey is also being conducted in USA, Canada and Ireland with the support of the North American Primary Care Research Group.

Data will be collected via an anonymous online survey.  This will be analyzed and the report published on this website.  

Link to online survey

Participant Information and Consent Forms

Participant consent form 

Participant information sheet 

Key Partners

Professor Fern Hauk, University of Virginia, USA, A/Professor Kevin Pottie, University of Ottawa, Canada, Professor Ann McFarlane, University of Limerick, Ireland, A/Professor Kim Griswold, University of Buffalo, USA

Project lead centre
Project stream
Action for Equity
Project start date
1 November 2017
Project end date
30 January 2018