Providing effective health care to refugee and migrant populations in host countries is a critical public health challenge. Combined with the other obstacles and barriers encountered, the difficulty in communication can seriously hamper access for refugees and immigrants to health-care services.

While significant efforts are being made to overcome communication barriers, many problems remain. A new Health Evidence Network (HEN) synthesis report from World Health Organization presents the evidence for the problems that exist, as well as strategies for dealing with refugee communication barriers in healthcare facilities.

The strategies.

The report identifies policies and formalized responses for addressing communication barriers in 14 countries, which can be categorized under cultural mediation, interpretation, translation of health information, and guidance and training for health-care providers.

As these strategies are usually implemented through multiple agencies, the report highlights the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation.

The strategies concern access to healthcare, managing specific diseases and promoting health in hospitals.

Based on the findings of the review, the report presents the following assessments of the strategy to be followed:

  • Strengthen cooperation between health care organizations, non-governmental organizations interested in the health of migrants and refugees and educational institutions to develop and implement strategies to address communication barriers for refugees and migrants in the healthcare sector.
  • Establish intersectoral dialogues on cultural mediation and interpretation
  • Strengthen the development and implementation of effective systems among countries for training, accreditation and professionalization.
  • Provide training to healthcare providers, to work effectively with mediators and interpreters in order to effectively communicate with refugees and immigrants
  • Establish incident reporting systems in health care settings where strategies are in place to address communication barriers.
  • Include refugees and migrants in the development and implementation of strategies to address communication barriers.
  • Develop national policies that highlight the importance of formal strategies to address effectively the communication barriers faced by refugees and migrants in health care.
  • Develop a combination of strategies.

This work will also contribute to the SCORE project, which is an innovative intervention in the training of professionals working with refugees.

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