Blog Header Test 05 Werribee Mercy Hospital – Healthy Happy Beginnings

October 4, 2016

Thank you to Werribee Mercy Hospital for writing this guest post on the Healthy Happy Beginnings program. Werribee Mercy Hospital is a general hospital providing surgical, medical, maternity, newborn, renal dialysis, emergency, mental health, rehabilitation, aged and palliative care services in the south west region of Melbourne.



Workers from Health Happy Beginnings partner agencies


People from refugee backgrounds often experience high levels of social disadvantage and face barriers accessing health services when becoming a new parent.  Healthy Happy Beginnings  is trying to change maternal education for refugee women.

Healthy Happy Beginnings is a free, community-based, socially inclusive program for Karen women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth and the months after. The Karen people are an ethnic minority group living in South-East Asia, predominantly Burma.

The program is designed to promote health literacy and health promotion, and an understanding of the health system in the context of pregnancy and early childhood. It is a collaborative partnership, including Werribee Mercy Hospital, City of Wyndham, Victorian Cooperative on Children’s Services for Ethnic Groups New Futures and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.


Program Development

Development of the Healthy Happy Beginnings program was guided by extensive community consultation and engagement with Karen women and men. The community identified the following as priorities during the consultation:

  • Access to care close to home (due to limited transport)
  • Greater access to professional interpreters
  • A desire to meet other people from the community also having a baby
  • How to stay healthy in pregnancy
  • What to expect in labour and childbirth in a hospital, particularly if an induction or a caesarean is required

Through the Healthy Happy Beginnings program, women are offered individual appointments for antenatal care with a midwife and an interpreter, as well as group information sessions with the maternal and child health nurse, midwife and a bicultural worker. The information provided is woman-directed, culturally appropriate and in the participant’s native language.

To date, about 90 Karen women have participated in the program with high attendance at the group sessions with a low drop-out rate.



A qualitative evaluation with 19 Karen women found that women’s overall experiences of the program were positive. The women reported that:

  • They felt prepared for childbirth
  • Learnt key words in English (for example ‘ultrasound’)
  • Made friends that they continue to socialise with
  • Appreciated the continuity of maternal and child health nurse and bicultural worker after childbirth.

Importantly, they knew what to do if they needed help.

Werribee Mercy Hospital is extremely excited to be part of the Healthy Happy Beginnings program which is helping to make a real difference in the lives of Karen women today and in the future.


More info: Visit or call 03 8754 3000.



Pregnancy group information session


The HealthWest blog gives our members a chance to discuss issues and share their work, including challenges, solutions and reflections. 

These views may not necessarily reflect those of HealthWest Partnership.


Community Participation, Education, Health Literacy, Parenting