Trauma-Informed Care for Refugee Populations




Raines-Milenkov, Amy
Qureshi, Iram
Baker, Eva
Thein, Emelda
Mudey, Halimo
Rudasingwa, Laurette
Subedi, Radhika


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Background: With the growing number of refugees resettled in the United States after fleeing war torn countries devastated by genocides, mass violence, and human rights abuses, it is increasingly likely that a healthcare provider will treat a patient who has experienced one or more traumatic events. When trauma is unaddressed, healthcare providers may unknowingly trigger re-traumatization, preventing refugees from seeking or receiving healthcare services. Refugee trauma survivors require a sensitive system of care. Western medicine is unfamiliar to many refugee groups, and some services, such as cervical cancer screening, may remind them of prior trauma. Trauma-informed care is an approach for assisting trauma survivors with evidence of benefit to vulnerable populations. Objectives: Introduce the trauma-informed care framework and key principles, provide examples of traumas experienced by refugees, and demonstrate how previous trauma can influence preventive health care utilization among women enrolled in the Building Bridges program. Methods: A literature review of trauma-informed care and trauma among refugees resettled in the United States was conducted. Additionally, qualitative data collected by Building Bridges Lay Health Educators as part of their education and navigation services was analyzed and grouped into themes. Results: Recurring themes of rape, torture and distrust towards healthcare providers was found in literature on refugee trauma. Similarly, Building Bridges data confirms rape and violence experienced by refugee women inhibit them from seeking preventive health services. Conclusions: This calls for more attention to the mental health needs of resettled refugees. Refugees need a linguistically and culturally appropriate form of care incorporating the trauma-informed framework.