In 2003 and 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) funded two meetings convened by the Center for Public Service Communications (CPSC), which led to the creation of the Refugee Health Information Network (RHIN®) and the April 2007 launch of its Web site (see Program Results on ID#s 048340 and 053555). RHIN is a national collaborative partnership offering public health resources to those who provide care to the diverse refugee population in the United States.
While refugees are entitled to a health assessment within the first three months after entering the United States, not all states have refugee health programs and communities have struggled to provide appropriate care. In addition, with little federal funding, there is a lack of health information in the wide variety of needed languages. RHIN provides an online database of peer-reviewed health information in multiple languages for use by health professionals.
Health-Equity.Org and the CPSC, on behalf of RHIN, hosted a symposium on November 17–18, 2008, to discuss:
- Expanding the collection of available multilingual, multicultural materials
- Establishing best practices for material development
- Addressing emerging issues for refugees and their host communities
- Promoting RHIN in new ways
- Approximately 50 people attended the symposium.
- The symposium, held at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., focused on how to:
- Access peer-reviewed health information available on the RHIN website—as well as from other sources—that reflects patients' languages and cultures. Nearly 150 languages are spoken by refugees and immigrants nationwide.
- Enable and encourage a culture of information sharing and communication among health care providers who specialize in refugee health. This can help alleviate the problem of duplicative materials for some topics and languages, and a lack of materials for others.
- Develop RHIN's partnerships and shape its future in order to better serve the needs of refugee health professionals.
- Symposium participants provided recommendations that continue to inform RHIN network planners in their development efforts. Recommendations included:
- Creating monthly "look what's new" updates
- Posting meeting notes and one-page draft summaries of ongoing projects
- Creating modules for different topics, such as TB, with basic information and materials that delve into the details
- Creating a listserv to facilitate sharing of information as well as a directory of discussion lists on refugee health issuesCoordinating efforts with other organizations in assessing the information needs of refugee populations
- Sharing guidelines to cultural competence
- Providing more links to communities and organizations that serve foreign-speaking populations
- Promoting RHIN to local health departments, and distributing a RHIN promotional packet at conferences and other venues
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