Pediatrics Refugee Health Program
The Refugee Health Assessment Program sees patients that are referred from specific resettlement agencies; thus appointments must be made by the agencies. New immigrants to the U.S. should have their appointments made with primary care professionals with whom they plan to establish long-term care.
Up to 75,000 refugees arrive each year in the United States, and about 5% of them have settled in Massachusetts in recent years. All refugees are entitled to a health assessment which needs to be initiated within three months of arrival in the U.S. Refugees are directed to the International Clinic by their sponsoring agencies. Trained medical interpreters and outreach workers affiliated with Boston Medical Center and the Refugee Health Program of the Department of Public Health provide interpretation of language as well as information about cultural traditions and practices that may impact upon health.
The health assessment includes:
- General health assessment, including vision, hearing and dental screening
- Identification and treatment of immediate health needs
- Diagnosis and treatment of communicable diseases
- Orientation to the health system in the United States
- Transition to a primary care provider
War, violence, and extreme living conditions are experiences shared by many refugee children. A survey of Bosnian children performed in the clinic showed that most children or their parents reported multiple exposures to wartime violence. Behavioral symptoms possibly related to these exposures were reported to be present in nearly half of all children. Therefore, the clinic has gradually expanded its role to provide additional services including:
- Providing school forms and immunizations to facilitate school entry
- Enrolling eligible children and mothers in the federal WIC program and providing additional nutritional support to families as needed
- Identifying the need and making arrangements for subspecialty services, including developmental assessment and referral for mental health services