New app gives non-English speakers a medical voice

A nurse and midwife has cracked the medical language barrier by producing an app to guide non-English speaking women through the Australian health maze by translating their medical problems to ensure they get speedier attention from doctors.

Rebeccah Bartlett

Rebeccah Bartlett’s health start-up called Shifra has been launched with information in English and Arabic and has already generated enough interest to have additional languages added in coming months.

She says it enables people from the Middle East, South America and Europe to search for answers to questions they might have about the Australian health system

It also answers queries including how to confirm of a pregnancy and the availability of contraception.

So far 33 per cent of the users have wanted answers to questions in Arabic.  Rebeccah is now looking to expand its translation services to Dari so Afghani speakers can access it.

Rebeccah says the idea of the app was born one night when she was working in a hospital and a teenage mother from Syria, with a two day old baby, wanted medical help but was impeded by the language barrier

Rebeccah told Fairfax she used Google translation services to connect with the mother on a basic level and the relief it the teenager was phenomenal.

Inspired to find a more engaging, solution Rebeccah has outlaid more than $10,000 and countless hours of work to create Shifra and dissolve the language barrier many women face when seeing doctors or attending hospitals.

“The whole point is that we have a lot of heath care services in English, but for the non-English speaking they just can’t access them

“I just wanted anything in their languages,” said.

“This was something that was needed, wanted and feasible.”