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New global network launched to improve health outcomes for refugees

The University of Edinburgh has spearheaded and is now, jointly with the University of the West of Scotland, leading a new international project to tackle the threat of serious healthcare problems among refugee populations.

The Global Refugee Health Research Network (GRHRN) brings together academics from across the world to address the health needs of refugees, through research and policy development. Members will share their expertise and knowledge to work on health challenges affecting millions of displaced people as a result of their refugee status.

The network is based at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science (SPS). It is led by Dr George Palattiyil of the Social Work department at SPS, and Dr Dina Sidhva of the University of the West of Scotland, who is also Associate of the Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh. At the launch of the network, Prof Milan Radosavljevic, Associate Vice Principal (Research) at the University of the West of Scotland said: “I welcome this new global initiative to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborative research and policy dialogue on refugee health and am excited that the network as already attracted support internationally. From the UWS’s point of view and following the recent development of the Global Challenges Research focused Centre for Care, Education and Entrepreneurship for Women Suffering Protracted Displacement, we would like to host the next workshop and also set up a PhD scholarship to pursue doctoral studies in the area of refugee health.”

Partners at this point include Makerere University in Uganda, Yarmouk University in Jordan, the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, the Aman Jordanian Association, and InterAid Uganda.

Global need to address refugee health

The GRHRN is a response to the need to address serious health consequences for people displaced due to war, poverty, political instability, human-rights violations and environmental factors, who find themselves living as refugees. Pressing issues around refugee health needs include: adolescent sexual and reproductive health; women’s health; trauma and psychosocial health and wellbeing; and the policy context for refugee health.

Refugee populations’ health can be affected by factors including the migration process itself, their social and legal status in destination countries, the length of their stay, and their language skills. But, despite recommendations – by the Global Forum on Migration and Development, for example – to develop cost-effective healthcare models for various migration scenarios, little has been done so far.

Launching the Network, Dr Palattiyil said: “Health services have tended to view refugees from an emergency and humanitarian point of view, and the health of refugees has received relatively little attention in the migration and development debate. This is despite the view of the World Health Assembly Resolution that the health of migrants is central to sustainable development.”

Dr Sidhva said: “Our understanding of how refugee and migrant health needs are being met across the world is limited. This new interdisciplinary network is bringing people together across locations, academic disciplines, and civil society organisations to debate refugee health, carry out collaborative research, and inform international health policies. By bringing together experts whose work is often fragmented to collaborate, we aim to provide practical solutions to help some of the most in-need people on the planet.”

Network aims

Among the GRHRN’s aims are to:

  • Develop a shared understanding among network members of refugee health challenges and required responses
  • Create a framework for placing health as a human right in the migration–development debate
  • Provide opportunities for partners and stakeholders to exchange information, access resources, and share insights in responding to the health needs of refugees, to shape new policy and practice
  • Foster an informed discussion on emerging issues in refugee health and explore ways through which health systems can be strengthened for health promotion of refugees
  • Develop an inter-disciplinary, cross-national research agenda for refugee health, promote and facilitate joint research in this field, and help disseminate research findings through workshops/seminars and joint publications

The network launched at a workshop with members and international partners at the University, exploring refugee healthcare in humanitarian crisis settings.

The full details of network partners are:

  • Regional Centre for Migration Studies - Makerere University, Uganda
  • Refugees, Displaced Persons & Forced Migration Studies Centre - Yarmouk University, Jordan
  • African Centre for Migration & Society - University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Aman Jordanian Association
  • Mercy Corps Jordan
  • Higher Population Council of the Government of Jordan
  • Institute for Family Health, Jordan
  • InterAid Uganda

Refugee Network Group

Clockwise, from middle bottom:

  • Dr Abla Amawi, Secretary General, Higher Population Council, Government of Jordan

  • Dr Ayat Nashwan, Director of Refugees, Displaced Persons & Forced Migration Studies Centre, Yarmouk University, Jordan

  • Haneen Diri, Community Engagement Officer, Mercy Corps, Jordan

  • Dr Ibrahim Aqel, Director, Institute for Family Health, Amman, Jordan

  • Dr Ann-Christin Wagner, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

  • Dr Ruba Al-Akash, Deputy Director of Princess Basma Centre for Jordanian Women Studies, Yarmouk University, Jordan

  • Dr George Palattiyil, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

  • Professor Milan Radosavljevic, Vice Principal (Research), University of the West of Scotland

  • Emmanuel Kironde, Senior Programmes Officer, InterAid Uganda, Kampala

  • Manal Al Ghazawi, Coordinator, Higher Population Council, Government of Jordan

Middle right:

  • Dr Ronald Sebba Kalyango, School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

Middle left:

  • Dr Dina Sidhva, University of the West of Scotland
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