Addressing Refugee's Barriers to Healthcare in the COVID Pandemic

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2021

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Jackson, Garrett
Bly, Cody
Weeks, Cassidy

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Purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted healthcare access for the refugee population in addition to the usual monetary, educational, language, and cultural barriers. The refugee population is significant as Texas is among the top states for refugee resettlement, accepting more than 57,000 refugees from 2010-19. Refugee Health Initiative (RHI), a student-run clinic at University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC), developed a COVID protocol to address these needs for this ever-growing population. Methods: To decrease the exposure risk, our protocol was divided into two categories: volunteer practices and clinic logistics. The COVID protocol focused on a decentralized system where each volunteer was educated and equipped with best practices as outlined by the CDC. The clinic setting itself was altered to enhance ventilation which included hosting the clinics outdoors. Results: With the changes to the clinic structure RHI has been able to host 8 clinics since October of 2020, administering 150 flu shots, 20 school physicals, and screening and referring 30 patients with chronic illnesses. This includes community outreach to 100+ individuals from these communities who continue to spread awareness of our clinical services. Conclusion: To continue filling the gap between the refugee population and the healthcare system, RHI created a COVID protocol that utilized educating our volunteers in COVID symptoms and best practices and performing the basic health services in environments conducive to limiting virus spread. Commitment to these simple measures resulted in our ability to prioritize preventive care for this vulnerable population.

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