Environmental, Nutrition and Health Issues in a US Refugee Resettlement Community

Lauren Sastre MS and Lauren Haldeman PhD. MEDICC Review, October 2015, Vol 17, No 4

In 2012, North Carolina ranked in the top ten states in refugee resettlement, with central Guilford County one of the most diverse in the southeast. This study examined the local resettlement environmental, nutrition and health barriers and needs of refugees in Guilford County, as perceived by individuals providing services to them. Perceptions were consistent across participants regarding a diverse local refugee population. Resettlement housing was observed to be in poor condition, located in areas of poverty with transportation barriers. However, refugees rarely relocated, due to strong community relationships and support. Perceived dietary risks included: difficulties budgeting and maintaining food assistance, hoarding food, high consumption of sodas and sweets, misperceptions regarding US products (e.g., perceived need for infant formula), and limited health knowledge. Respondents observed that most refugees preferred "fresh" foods, and had strong agricultural skills but lacked green space. Major barriers to health care reported were: poverty, short duration of initial Medicaid coverage, and language (both lack of interpretation services and translated materials). Providers consistently observed type 2 diabetes, weight gain and dental problems across refugee groups.

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