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Importance of native language in a population-based health survey among ethnic Chinese in Australia


Correspondence to:
Kam Cheong Wong, Centre for Chronic Disease, School of Medicine, 317 Edith Cavell Building, Herston QLD 4029. Fax: (07) 3346 4812; e-mail:


Objective: To assess the impacts of survey languages on participation and representativeness of the study subjects in a health survey in a Chinese community in Australia.

Method: A random sample of 500 ethnic Chinese in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia was surveyed during November 2005 to February 2006 by using a bilingual survey questionnaire in their preferred languages, i.e. English or Chinese.

Results: 210 questionnaires were returned. Two-thirds of the participants chose to answer the questionnaires in Chinese. Besides being older with relatively lower income, they were more likely to be married, have a Chinese family doctor, and visit a Chinese medicine practitioner. Fewer of them have visited the Diabetes Australia website or read any educational information materials about diabetes.

Conclusions & Implication: The multilingual approach is crucial to improving participation and representativeness of samples from ethnic populations.