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International Students' Health and Wellbeing

Health Lens Project

The International Students Health and Wellbeing health lens was a collaborative project between the Health in All Policies unit, SA Health; the Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology; and Multicultural SA. The project also involved non-government agencies including Education Adelaide and the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).

The international student market is important to the South Australian economy. South Australia attracts more than 20,000 international students to its higher education institutions each year. Good health and wellbeing is critical to the successful completion of study and while many international students face issues similar to domestic students, they often lack the social support and resources to access the health care system. In 2009, the Spurr Report found that many international students have a limited understanding of the health care system, the role of general practitioners and how to access health services, and recommended that the level of health information and awareness among international students needs to be increased.

The health lens project sought to address the gap in information provision and support provided to international students. The project focused on international students in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, as these students often do not have access to the same support as university students.

The project followed the traditional health lens analysis process and went through a number of evidence gathering stages:

  • Literature review
  • Education provider workshops
  • Student contact officer survey and telephone interviews
  • International student focus groups.

The project found international students face a range of challenges that can impact on their health and wellbeing including accommodation and employment issues, lack of transport options, financial difficulties, a lack of understanding around their insurance and how to access the health system, and social isolation.

Project outcomes

The evidence collected during the project was used to inform the development of a range of recommendations. It was recommended that a Health Resource be developed to assist international students to navigate the health system. It is anticipated that this resource will provide international students, including VET international students, with an enhanced understanding of the structure and nature of the South Australian health system, relying less on inappropriate sources of health advice and treatment. The International Student Health Resource fact sheet series (PDF 1MB) is now available

South Australia’s strategic plan target

T90: Share of overseas students - increase the number of overseas students across all education and training sectors from 13 737 in 2003 to 45 000 by 2014.

Final report

The final report of the International Students Health and Wellbeing Health Lens Project (PDF 565KB) can be downloaded here.

International Student Health Resource

The evidence collected throughout the Health in All Policies International Students Project was used to inform the development of a range of recommendations including that a health resource (fact sheets) be developed to assist international students to navigate the health system.

The project found international students face a range of challenges that can impact on their health and wellbeing including a lack of understanding around their health insurance and how to access and use the Australian health system. Other areas identified related to accommodation and employment issues, lack of transport options, financial difficulties, and social isolation.

The fact sheet series provides a guide to some frequently asked questions to address the physical, psychological and sexual health needs of international students.

The entire fact sheet series (PDF 1MB) is available and includes the following information:

  • Summary Fact Sheet: Five Key Messages
  • Fact Sheet 1: Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)
  • Fact Sheet 2: Doctors and hospitals
  • Fact Sheet 3: Medications, the dentist and Allied Health Services
  • Fact Sheet 4: Emotional wellbeing
  • Fact Sheet 5: General health and wellbeing
  • Fact Sheet 6: Sexual health

It is anticipated that this resource will provide international students with an enhanced understanding of the structure and nature of the Australian health system, with particular reference to South Australian services.

The fact sheet series was developed with input from a wide range of people and agencies including SA Health, Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology, Education Adelaide, and Multicultural Youth South Australia Inc. Thank you in particular to the international students themselves who took the time to review and provide comment on the drafts.

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