Refugees and Their Health

WUSC executive member, Jess, recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture on the plethora of health issues facing refugees in camps, and upon arrival at their new homes around the world, and agreed to share a write-up with us on what she learned:

Many refugees flee their homes to come to Canada due to persecution and they are in need of protection. I recently got the opportunity to have an in depth look at refugee health for new refugees in Canada. Many refugees need immediate health care when they arrive in Canada. This is due to the fact that the majority of migrants are untreated before they come over to Canada and unfortunately, refugees are not able to get health insurance for up to three months after arriving in Canada.

Refugee women and children in camps have an increased risk for communicable diseases and older age groups are more vulnerable to chronic disease. So when they arrive in Canada they need immediate treatment or some diseases would get worse. The health care treatment then causes some refugees to become in debt as soon as they enter the country due to medical bills. A student refugee that is brought in with the World University Service of Canada has all medical paid for, including medication and dental. Dental health can be one of the largest problems for some refugees due to Vitamin D deficiency.

On top of physical medical health, many refugees can have post-traumatic stress disorder from trauma they have experienced. Many of these refugees are not likely to seek a support group or psychiatric treatment when they are in a foreign country. WUSC provides a support group for the transition to a new country.

Furthermore, lack of education and language barriers stop some refugees from getting the treatments they need. Refugees are less likely to go for health care because they may not be educated on it or they may not be able to communicate with health care professionals. For this reason a support group is necessary when refugees come to Canada to provide them with the knowledge about a new country. In addition, translators are also a necessity in certain times.

Poverty and racism are also determinants of health care. Many refugees may not go for health treatment due to lack of money or they may have encountered racism at some point and it has soured their experience. It has been shown that because of the lack of health care that nine percent of refugee children’s growth is stunted in the United States. In addition, malnutrition can restrict cerebral development which then in turn makes some classes in school a challenge.

For refugee health in Canada to advance there needs to be a team in Canada who is aware of the refugee’s cultural needs and is there to educate them and interpret society and health for them at the beginning of their migration. Having a pre-arrival medical exam would also be greatly helpful in determining what Health Canada can do to help refugees. Health institutions should also create more internationally friendly facilities. The fact that Health Canada is worried about refugee health is a step in the right direction. In addition, organizations like the Regina Open Door Society need more funding to help refugees when they first enter the country. WUSC is a great example of an organization that is working towards better refugee health in Canada.

Jess Mitten-Moore
Public Relations
WUSC Regina


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