Health Services for Refugees in the United States: Policies and Recommendations

Molly Pace, Sarah Al-Obaydi, Maziar M. Nourian, Akiko Kamimura


Some of refugees, who were forced to move out from a home country due to political or religious conflicts, war or natural or manmade disasters, resettle in another country. Resettlement in another country is challenging as refugees suffer from a number of mental and physical health problems. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the United State (US) governments provide medical assistance as well as financial and immigration legal assistance. Yet, it is still challenging to ensure health and well-being of refugees who have diverse social and health conditions and needs. This study reviewed federal policies and limitations on refugee health in the US, which accepts the largest number of refugee resettlements in the world. The reviewed policies include health insurance policies, health promotion policies, the Survivors of Torture Program, and medical screening. Some refugees still have limited accessibility to services due to difficulties in understanding the healthcare system even when they are eligible for many of the services. While most policies on refugee health mainly focus on the early stage of resettlement and infectious disease screening, follow-up services for chronic conditions are essential to ensure health and well-being of refugees. Because social factors affect health of refugees, it is necessary to provide services that address social and health issues. There are several recommendations to improve policies and services to better serve refugee populations who resettled in the US. First, more comprehensive health promotion and education programs are necessary for refugees to better understand the US healthcare system and healthcare. Second, long-term follow-ups which include chronic health conditions are important to improve health of refugees. Lastly, social and health issues should be integrated with a bidirectional approach which supports both refugees and existing communities.

Keywords: refugees, physical and mental health, resettlement, federal policies, United States


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