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Canterbury champions the needs of international students

Canterbury champions the needs of international students

April 27, 2014

A University of Canterbury study, prompted by a high abortion rate among young Asian women, has revealed an alarming lack of sexual reproductive health knowledge among Asian born international students.

The study has found that Asian born international tertiary students in particular, often have little idea about where to go for help and advice. This was the first national study of sexual health service needs of overseas born tertiary students.

The findings from the New Zealand national abortion data illustrated that Asian women had the highest abortion rates between 2002- 2008, when compared with women of other ethnic groups.

The national data has found that the majority of the Asian women, who accessed abortion clinics in New Zealand, were born overseas, with the majority being recent arrivals, having been in New Zealand within the last five years.

The data further illustrated that about half of the Asian women who had abortions were tertiary students in their 20s.

The UC study involving 500 tertiary students has found that Asian born international students consistently scored lower than their New Zealand born counterparts in their knowledge about prevention and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and where to access health services in New Zealand to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Asian born international students were also more likely to be reluctant to visit a GP than New Zealand born students, when needing information about contraceptives, preferring to ask their friends or hospital staff, University of Canterbury health sciences associate professor Ray Kirk says.

``Despite the growing migrant population and the large influx of Asian international students in New Zealand and the importance of considering cultural difference when planning health services, limited attention had been given to the area of sexual health services research.’’

A Canterbury health sciences lecturer, Kate Reid, says culture can influence beliefs and perspectives about sex and sexual health education. This study was about trying to better understand students’ needs, she says.

In public health research that examines young people’s various health needs including sexual health, many students classified as fee paying international students, or with limited English language abilities are often excluded.

This has resulted in many migrants and international students being excluded from the data. However, they still have different health needs just like everyone else, Dunedin researcher Bible Lee says.

Findings from the research were presented at the recent 35th New Zealand Sexual Health Society Conference and were commissioned by Partnership Health Canterbury.


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