Transcultural communication

On my last full day in Stockholm I managed to fit in an impromptu visit to the Transkulturellt Centrum (Transcultural Centre), thanks to a couple of leads from Ingrid. The Centre, funded by the Stockholm County Council, exists to provide support to health professionals (including GPs) and dental care staff concerning issues of culture, migration, and refugee status.

The Centre also provides health communication for newly arrived refugees and migrants on a wide range of subjects, including: the impact of migration on health; healthy eating; sexual health; and parenting. The programme is delivered by a team of Health Communicators: bilingual health advisors with professional medical backgrounds and, crucially, personal experience of migrating to Sweden. I had the opportunity to meet one of the Health Communicators, Susan Sami, during my visit; Susan’s enthusiasm for her role was palpable. The image below is taken from an English-language pamphlet about the Centre’s work.


The Health Communicators are uniquely placed to empathise with new arrivals to the city and help them to get to grips with their entitlements and how to navigate the health system, but also to develop an understanding of the ‘medical culture’ in Sweden. Often this differs significantly from the medical culture of their homeland. The Centre has its roots in Transcultural Psychiatry which, as I learnt from Karima Assel (the Centre’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist), is a branch of psychiatry concerned with the cultural context of mental health problems.

As well as working with newly arrived refugees and immigrants, much of the Centre’s work involves educating health and dental care staff about the specific health challenges patients from these backgrounds experience via training and a consultancy service that provides advice to health staff. In the spirit of Transcultural Psychiatry, the Centre encourages health staff to reflect on their own cultural position and how it interacts with the cultural positions of their patients; the Centre emphasises the importance of communication over ‘education’. I left the Centre with lots to think about over my last kaffe and kanelbulle in Stockholm. Next stop: Gothenburg.


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