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Focus on Research: Connecting refugees to health services

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In 2016, 1,400 refugees arrived in Nova Scotia. As health care providers worked to prepare facilities, teams and protocols for assessing and serving refugees’ immediate health needs, researchers were looking ahead at how best to move families out of refugee-specific transitional services and into primary care services in their new communities.

Dr. Tara Sampalli, director of research and innovation, primary health care and chronic disease management, teamed up with Graeme Kohler, primary health care health services manager in NSHA’s Central Zone (Halifax area and West Hants), to develop and test a transition process. They received a Translating Research Into Care (TRIC) grant to get started.

Refugee families are provided with immunizations, cancer screenings, support to manage chronic diseases, screening for infectious diseases, and treatment, if necessary. “This is done with help from interpreters, in conjunction with other settlement activities,” notes Kohler. “But eventually we need to connect families to a practitioner in their own community and make room for new families in the transitional clinic.”

Dr. Sampalli and Kohler and their colleagues are designing and testing a transition process, including readiness screening tools. “We’re the only ones in Canada doing this research,” Dr. Sampalli says. “We want to partner with other provinces to shape and evaluate the health services transition process for refugees and share our findings with other countries.”