Who are we?
Dear VF members. In the coming months you will meet me hanging out at Vision First. My name is Ms. Sealing Cheng. I am part of a research project on asylum-seekers’ health-related issues led by Dr. William Wong of the University of Hong Kong.
What are we researching?
This project seeks to identify and understand the health practices, problems and needs of refugees from Africa in Hong Kong. We understand that refugees live under very challenging conditions in Hong Kong – with no right to work, volunteer or study (except for children), refugees are dependent on the government and NGOs for housing, healthcare, food and other necessities. The current level of support for Hong Kong refugees is for basic survival. The impact of such conditions on your physical and mental health must be tremendous. How do you cope? How do you optimize your limited resources for your own physical, psychological, and social well-being? How are different kinds of health knowledge, practices, and access utilized – for example, folk medicine, over-the-counter medication, and public healthcare service? What kind of problems do you encounter when accessing the public health care system? These are just some of the questions we have in this project.
Refugees experience being rendered largely invisible in Hong Kong. But the focus of this project is on those from Africa because, unlike the largest group of asylum-seekers in Hong Kong who are from South Asia, those from Africa do not have access to any support and resources made available by a local ethnic community. Furthermore, their appearance also subjects them to greater scrutiny and discrimination in Hong Kong, given society’s very minimal interaction with people from the African continent. This may mean that African refugees experience a distinct set of issues and concerns regarding their physical and mental health.
What are our goals?
- to gain insights into health-related experiences of refugees through their stories and in their own voice. Your personal stories and the survey will provide both depth and breadth to our understanding of the health practices, needs and level of access. These will help identify areas of health problems, patterns of health behavior and risks as well as institutional, social, and cultural obstacles to health-seeking behavior.
- to contribute to developing solutions for some of the health-related problems faced by refugees in Hong Kong. The findings will certainly raise public awareness and hopefully inform future policies concerning this group. Would setting up a refugee clinic be ideal? Or should the focus be on making the public health care system more inclusive?
- this project is hopefully the first step in understanding the much larger refugee community and to building a more appropriate infrastructure to address their health needs. It is our conviction that addressing this aspect of refugee life is a crucial step to treating you with humanity and to assume our obligations to protect the rights of those seeking asylum.
What will we do?
The project will take about one year to complete. It is divided into 2 parts.
Part I - will take place between May and September 2012. This is the part where Sealing will be running around trying to meet and talk with people to explore the range of health attitudes and practices of refugees as well as problems with seeking health care services. It would be great if you could allow Sealing (with her research assistant who speaks French) to hang out with you – from everyday routines to picking up groceries and visiting local hospitals. 30 in-depth interviews will take place in August and September.
Part II - involves a survey that will begin by the end of 2012. Based on the findings from Part I, a questionnaire will be designed to identify patterns of behavior as well as demographic information in the population. Questions may include: places of origin, length of residence in Hong Kong, age, gender, education level, work/ income if any; specific information on family structure and relationships, health attitudes and practices, sexual relationship, smoking habits, alcohol/ drug use, condom use; general health status, access to health care, including sexual and reproductive health service. 320 questionnaires will be administered.
Naturally, the absolute confidentiality of respondents will be guaranteed. Pseudonyms rather than real names will be used for the transcription and archiving of all interviews. All information will be used for the purpose of this research only. No part of the project will be accessible to any government agents.