South Sudanese people form the largest number of resettled refugees in Australia between 2003 and 2004. This study aims to explore how this community understands and responds to health and illness. No study has specifically examined the concept of health and illness in the broader socio-cultural context of the South Sudanese people in Australia.
The design was a qualitative study using interviews and focus group discussions with 33 South Sudanese people in Adelaide, South Australia. Participants were asked to reflect on their understanding of health and illness and influences on their access and use of health and other services. Data were electronically audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.
Three main themes emerged from the analysis demonstrating complex and multifaceted views on health and illness. Participants described health as both a lack of disease and wider issues involving social belonging and participation, cultural well-being, living conditions and harmony in the society. They revealed that illnesses are predetermined by God or caused by a curse, breaking a cultural taboo, disharmony with the environment, community and ancestral spirits. Participants deeply tied their beliefs about illness causation and treatment to their historical, social and cultural lived realities, shaping their responses and health-care-seeking decisions.
The current study revealed a complex understanding of health and health-care-seeking practices amongst South Sudanese Australians. The multifaceted views of health and health-care-seeking practices underscore the importance of person-centred care for culturally and linguistically diverse people.