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U of U residents promote health access for refugees

IRC Intern teaches a health promotion class to refugees from Burma
The IRC in Salt Lake City offers a myriad of health promotion and access classes and workshops to ensure refugee families are able to access and utilize the US healthcare system. Photo: Janice Ly/IRC

For newly-arrived refugees, adapting to life in the United States poses many challenges, especially when it comes to healthcare. From treating common illnesses to knowing what do in a medical emergency, uncertainty abounds when learning a new system. For parents with young children, this situation is even more complex: not only are they navigating a complicated system for themselves, but also for their families. At the International Rescue Committee (IRC), our health team works provide clients with the tools they need to live healthy lives and support families as they learn to access the US healthcare system.

One way we are able to support refugee families is through a partnership with the University of Utah Medicine-Pediatrics Residency (MedPed) program. With the help of MedPed residents, the IRC is able to offer one-on-one health classes to refugee families. These classes not only educate families about basic children’s healthcare, but also empower families to access the healthcare resources available in the US.

As part of this program, MedPed residents visit clients in their homes and teach lessons specific to children’s health. During their visits, the residents teach families about common childhood illnesses, like the common cold, fevers and dehydration, and provide household supplies like Band-aids and thermometers. According to Kirsten Rupp, a fourth-year resident in the MedPed program, these classes not only make healthcare more accessible for families, but they also could help them save money in the future.

“Learning appropriate home medical care may help decrease the financial burden of a doctor’s visit, and understanding the medical system is crucial to prevent redundant and costly medical visits,” Kirsten said. “Provision of thermometers and other basic medical supplies will allow families to be more self-sufficient.”

The partnership between the MedPed program and the IRC began seven years ago with a CATCH grant to identify refugee health needs in the community. Since then, the program continues to support the refugee communities in two ways: first by providing refugee families with important information necessary for self-sufficiency in the U.S., and second by serving as relevant training for medical students.

MedPed home visits are valuable because they help refugee families learn how to take control of their health. Having the knowledge to make informed decisions and the ability to use healthcare resources supports refugees as the work towards self-sufficiency here in Salt Lake City.

You can learn more about these efforts and others with our health programming by emailing us at SaltLakeCity [at] Rescue.org (subject: Health%20Programming) .