The IRC in Oakland launches new Health Access Program
Navigating through the US Healthcare system can be a daunting task for many of us, but imagine trying to also understand this system if you were new to the US with low English abilities and a lack of support from the healthcare community. This is the challenge that most refugees face upon their arrival in the Bay Area. With this in mind, IRC in Oakland has developed and launched a health access program that seeks to ease refugees' transitions into the healthcare system and ultimately improve client health and well-being. Beginning in August 2012, IRC in Oakland kicked off a new "Health Access Program." The comprehensive program is staffed by a team of volunteer professionals and interns with experience in mental health, medicine, nursing, public health, and statistical analysis. The team's objectives are to improve refugees' physical and well-being outcomes and improve existing services for future clients. These objectives are accomplished by providing services that facilitate county health screenings upon refugees arrival to the US, establishing long term relationships with primary care providers and specialists in the neighborhoods clients settle in, providing mental health screenings and referral services, providing health education classes, and assisting clients in accessing benefits through social services. IRC in Oakland is working to improve future refugee health services by teaming with other Bay Area refugee and asylee community groups to help identify and aim to resolve deficiencies in the current system to make it more welcoming to our unique refugee population. We look forward to reporting on the future success of this program, and the progress the refugees and asylees have made in improving their own health and wellness.