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University offers training in refugee and migrant health

Friday 5 June 2020 1:08pm

A post-graduate course on refugee and migrant health being run by the University of Otago, Wellington is offering primary health care professionals the opportunity to improve their training in the area, ahead of a likely increase in the number of refugees coming to the country.

The Government has announced an increase in the refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 from July this year, although the programme is on hold until borders reopen. The increase in numbers comes with the announcement of new refugee resettlement areas in Ashburton, Whanganui, Timaru, Blenheim, Masterton and Levin.

Course convenor, Serena Moran, says the paper offers nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physiotherapists, paramedics and others the chance to increase their skills in cross cultural care, and could be particularly useful for those who have previously had little contact with refugees.

The inter-professional distance education paper is run by the University every second year.

Serena Moran image
Ms Serena Moran.

Ms Moran says the course is primarily focused on caring for people from refugee backgrounds and looks beyond the specifics of health screening and mental health assessments.

“We look at the broader concepts of health, so we also look at people’s journeys and how they came to be refugees because that impacts on their health and well-being. And when they get to New Zealand, some of those factors around health determinants like housing, poverty, or employment – all those things impact on health too, so we also look at those.”

Ms Moran says the rise in the refugee quota will also see the number of refugees able to join their family through the family reunification category increase from 300 to 600 people.

“Those family members, when they come to New Zealand, some of them come with residency, but they are not deemed to be refugees. They may have been living in a refugee camp for many years, but when they come to New Zealand, they don’t get any of the resettlement support that quota refugees get. They just come to their families, and they are expected to look after them and sponsor them – and so sometimes they can fall through the gaps in terms of health screening and resettlement support.

“You might get someone who comes into your clinic who isn’t a quota refugee but has just arrived and hasn’t been screened on arrival for tuberculosis or other infectious diseases.”

Ms Moran says those who complete the course will come out with greater knowledge of refugee backgrounds and the health issues refugees and their families face, as well as learning what comprehensive health screening looks like for this group.

Students will also gain greater insights into how to provide cross-cultural care in the health sector.

“The cross cultural care component can be used in clinical work and consultation with all patients because we all come from different backgrounds, health beliefs and cultures.”

Ms Moran hopes the course will give primary health care practitioners a greater awareness of how important it can be to ask questions of patients.

“Unless you ask those questions you may never know that actually this person was in a refugee camp before they came to New Zealand – or that they might have had some experiences of being in a place where there was conflict, or a lack of access to healthcare services, which might be impacting on them now.”

The course starts on 6 July, with enrolments open now.

Full details for the course

For more information, contact:

Serena Moran
Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice
University of Otago, Wellington

Cheryl Norrie
Communications Adviser
University of Otago, Wellington
Mob +64 21 249 6787