The health profile of newly-arrived refugee women and girls and the role of region of origin: using a population-based dataset in California between 2013 and 2017

Author(s): May SUDHINARASET, Nuny CABANTING, Marisa RAMOS

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-019-1066-3

Abstract

Background

There has been an increasing number of refugee women globally; yet, there is little recent data describing the health profile of refugee women by region of origin in the United States. It is important to monitor the health status of women by region of origin to provide needed targeted interventions.

Methods

We analyzed the Refugee Health Electronic Information System (RHEIS), a population-based dataset that included 14,060 female refugees who entered California between October 3, 2013 and February 15, 2017. We assessed differences in health status by region of origin.

Results

Almost one out of three women experienced a traumatic event. Women from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean experienced higher levels of trauma compared to other regions, including sexual assault, physical, and weapon assault. More than half of women and girls (56.6%) reported experiences of persecution, with Southeast Asians reporting the highest levels. Among women of reproductive age, 7.0% of women were currently pregnant at the time of arrival to the US, 19.0% ever had a spontaneous abortion, and 8.6% reported ever having an abortion. One in three women from Africa reported female genital cutting. Moreover, 80.0% of women reported needing language assistance at the time of their health assessment.

Conclusions

Refugee women and girls experience high levels of trauma and persecution, suggesting the need for trauma-informed care. Those working with refugee women, such as resettlement agencies and health providers, should be equipped with information about antenatal care, nutrition, and pregnancy to newly arrived women. Lastly, differences in health status by region of origin indicate a need for tailored interventions and linguistically appropriate health information.

Tags: United States, Refugees, Women, Children, Adolescents, Youth, Gender-based violence, Sexual violence, Violence, Persecution, Trauma

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