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Refugee Health Collaborative of Omaha, Nebraska

Refugee Health Collaborative of Omaha, Nebraska

Public Health Community Advisory –  According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, 14 million people are refugees and asylum seekers. A refugee is a person “who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of origin because of previous persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, based on the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Secondary migrants are those refugees who have originally resettled in one part of the country and have subsequently moved to another location.

The Refugee Health Collaborative (RHC) was developed as a result of the Bridge To Care project, a legacy project of the Service Learning Academy, COPH, UNMC, and recognition of the need to coordinate and collaborate, integrate, and further develop initiatives addressing the well-being of refugees in the Omaha metro community.

While the RHC’s original leader, Ruth Margalit, MD, is away on a sabbatical two individuals are sharing leadership of the core workgroup: Libby Crockett, MD and Denise H. Britigan, PhD. Others that have participated in the core work group include:

  • Pam Franks – CEO of Embrace the Nations
  • Joe Higgs – Omaha Together One Community (OTOC)
  • Kara Tofte – Coordinator of International Center for Heartland at Lutheran Family Services
  • Christine Ross – Refugee Health Liaison
  • Ann Marie Kudlacz – Executive Director of South Sudanese Community Association
  • Alana Schriver – Omaha Public Schools, Yates Community Center
  • Laura Vinson – Service Learning Academy Coordinator at COPH, UNMC

The RHC which has three main components:

  1. Medical providers
  2. Refugee community members
  3. Community organizations

Over a dozen organizations currently participate in the forum. In the fall of 2013, the RHC developed a community needs survey, which was disseminated to the refugee community. Results from this survey were analyzed, reported back to community, and are used to help determine the communities’ needs.

Based on the scope of the needs, participants decided to develop activities in two main directions:

  1. Service-oriented community engagement: planning service interventions and related activities with refugee leaders, directed at addressing community-identified needs;
  2. Research and development: integrating various data sources available in order to understand the characteristics of the community, develop services accordingly, use data for funding, and develop research projects. An epidemiologic cohort has been established by Dr. Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway. Data from this cohort will further assist in research, funding, and directing interventions.

The RHC strives to include a strong refuge voice and to function with respect and appreciation for all participants while remaining mindful of the wide range of diverse communities and perspectives. The RHC is NOT a research entity but does see research as helpful in promoting the interests of the community.

This article was written by Denise H. Britigan, PhD, Laura Vinson, MPH, and Ruth Margalit, MD.

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