Aligning Medical Care and Cultural Practices for Afghan Refugees


The number of refugees resettling in the United States from Afghanistan is continuing to grow, so it is essential to learn more about how their culture and health practices align to give them the best possible medical care. To gain a better understanding of Afghan healthcare needs, we integrated existing research with gray literature and first person accounts from the community. The Afghan American population is currently over 300,000 (US Census, 2015), posing specific healthcare challenges as refugees. Some challenges specific to the Afghan community include acculturation, access to healthcare, lower help-seeking behaviors, increasing rates of chronic diseases (Hosseini & Burkle, 2017). Decades of war insecurity have caused a prevalence of psychological distress, and cultural stigma around mental health leads to worsened outcomes. Commonly reported barriers among newly resettled Afghan refugees include scheduling conflicts, difficulty navigating the U.S. healthcare system, and needing interpreter services. Due to a lack of resources, pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death for women of childbearing age in Afghanistan (UNICEF, 2018), and rates of fertility and infant mortality are high compared to South Asian countries (Rasooly et al., 2015). In the US, pre-migration exposures compounded by cultural dislocation may impact postpartum mental health. To best aid the Afghan community, healthcare priorities should include management of chronic diseases and mental health issues, providing preventative care such as immunizations and screenings, and considering social determinants of health including housing conditions and racial discrimination when addressing the healthcare needs of all refugee communities.


Ahmad Elhaija
CEO, Executive, International Collegiate Health Initiative (ICHI), California, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Religious Community and Socialization


Refugees, Afghan, Culture, Health, Medical Practices

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