Centre for Health Assets Australia: Maternity facility design

There is very little evidence-based research that explores the influence of cultural background on patient experience of health services and facilities.  This project investigated the experience of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women when accessing maternity services in Australia’s public healthcare system, to explore whether more culturally appropriate facility design could result in better health outcomes.

Project Partners

NSW Health
Centre for Health Assets Australia (CHAA) hosted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW)
CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) women from Sydney’s south west

This research project demonstrates the value of using design ethnography to understand the impact of culture and language diversity on user experience of a service. Design ethnography allows us to see patterns of behavior in a real world context - patterns that we can understand both rationally and intuitively. This method revealed an important insight into the systems-level conflicts that contribute to user experience. The project also tested and developed effective engagement protocols for CALD women, health professionals and public servants each operating within complex systems.

About the project

As a trained architect with an interest in the design of public places, Angelique began this work  in collaboration with NSW Health and CHAA (Centre for Health Assets Australia), who were responsible at that time for the Australasian Health Facility Design Guidelines.

NSW Health were concerned about the low presentation rates of particular groups of women in utilising maternity services offered by the public NSW health service. This study sought to better understand the reasons informing these rates, investigating whether more culturally appropriate facility design could result in better health outcomes.

The project focused particularly on the experience of culturally and linguistically diverse women, for whom the social, cultural and political dynamic of health services is complex with regards to often-conflicting cultural tradition, religious beliefs and compliance requirements of modern medical practice.

Other material published on this project

2011: ‘Initiating participatory design: multiculturalism, women, childbirth and resilience’ refereed conference paper presented and published at MULTICULTURALISM: PERSPECTIVES FROM AUSTRALIA, CANADA AND CHINA, November 2011, Sydney University

2010: Conference paper presented at Emotional Geographies April 2010 ‘Women, risk & resilience: the alchemy and cartography of affect’