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When refugees come to the United States from nations that have little to no infrastructure, navigating the complexities of the American healthcare system can be quite a chore. Besides having to know where to get healthcare and how to communicate this need with others, refugee patients often do not understand the ideas of health insurance or even scheduling an appointment.

Helping refugees find healthcare

In an article in The Arizona Republic in 2010, a possible solution to this problem is proposed:

“The ultimate goal is to empower patients to navigate the health-care process by themselves, (Refugee Women’s Health Clinic director Crista) Johnson said.

“Until then, patients are guided every step, starting with a knock on the front door.”

Reaching out to refugees who might need medical aid but don’t know how to get it is the most important step to be taken. Volunteers help refugees along each part of what can be an immensely confusing process of getting prescriptions, medication and other attention.

Many refugees come from cultures where the medical field is nonexistent or entirely different from that in the United States, and careful consideration must be taken to help ease the culture shock. However, the only way to build a new healthcare culture for refugees is by exposing them to the American system and helping them learn and understand it as they go.

Another important aspect of acclimating refugees to a new form of healthcare is personal relationship. The closer refugees feel to the people who work in the healthcare system, the easier it will be for them to continue seeking medical attention when it is necessary.

Additional focus on comprehension

Although there is work being done to help refugees connect with healthcare providers, additional assistance is necessary to help refugees become more self-sufficient in this regard.

Being able to fill out paperwork to apply for Medicaid is a skill that many refugees lack, often because of the language barrier and other factors. If refugees can be taught about the American healthcare system, they can begin to provide themselves with the guidance they need to achieve a healthy existence in the United States.

The focus of this help should be on the comprehension of the system, which comes in addition to aiding refugees in the immediate connection with local healthcare providers. Teaching refugees how to navigate the American healthcare system will create a better understanding of how to find medical attention and how to survive in a culture vastly different from their own.