Faculty Publications


First published in Primary Heath Care Research & Development. Vol. 23 (2022) e21. Published by Cambridge University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S146342362200007X

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domestic health screen, mental health, refugees

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Primary health care research & development



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BACKGROUND: Newly arriving Syrian refugees can present with specific health characteristics and medical conditions when entering the United States. Given the lack of epidemiological data available for the refugee populations, our study examined the demographic features of Syrian refugees resettled in the state of Kentucky. Specifically, we examined mental and physical health clinical data in both pre-departure health screenings and domestic Refugee Health Assessments (RHA; Kentucky Office for Refugees, n.d.) performed after resettlement. METHOD: The current study adopted a cross-sectional research design. We analyzed outcome data collected from participants from 2013 and 2015. Specifically, a comparative cross-sectional analysis was performed using clinical data from Syrian refugees who underwent an RHA as part of the resettlement process between January 2015 and August 2016. Those data were compared to data derived from refugees from other countries who resettled in Kentucky between 2013 and 2015. RESULTS: Mental health screenings using the Refugee Health Screener (RHS-15; Hollifield et al., 2013) found that 19.5% (n = 34) of adult Syrian refugees reported signs and symptoms from posttraumatic stress, depressive symptoms, and/or anxiety, and nearly 40% (n = 69) reported personal experiences of imprisonment or violence, and/or having witnessed someone experiencing torture or violence. Intestinal parasites and lack of immunity to varicella were the most prevalent communicable diseases among Syrian refugees. Dental abnormalities and decreased visual acuity account for the first and second most prevalent non-communicable conditions. When comparing these results to all refugees arriving during the same years, significant differences arose in demographic variables, social history, communicable diseases, and non-communicable diseases. CONCLUSION: This study provides an initial health profile of Syrian refugees resettling in Kentucky, which reflects mental health as a major healthcare concern. Posttraumatic stress and related symptoms are severe mental health conditions among Syrian refugees above and beyond other severe physical problems.


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