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Opening Doors: A Sustainable Refugee Health Care Model

Opening Doors: A Sustainable Refugee Health Care Model
  • By: NYSHealth
  • Date: January 2016
  • Priority Area: Special Projects Fund
  • Type: Resources
  • Category: Report
  • Document: Download


This NYSHealth report examines the development, implementation, and replication of an innovative health care model for newly arrived refugees to the United States. The model makes primary care services available to refugees and allows health centers to provide that care in a sustainable, cost-efficient manner.

The United States has a longstanding history of accepting refugees in search of a new life, all of whom have fled war-torn countries or cannot safely return to their home country. Approximately 3,000–5,000 refugees per year have resettled in New York State, the majority in the upstate region. Many refugees share similar health-related challenges that make it difficult to access health care, including exposure to torture, terrorism, and lengthy stays in refugee camps, as well as language barriers. For many health care providers, the provision of care for refugees has proven to be a financial stress or unsustainable. As a result, health care clinics have either shut their doors to new refugees or have closed down altogether because of the financial burden of treating these patients.

The report outlines NYSHealth’s support to develop and pilot a sustainable model of care for this vulnerable population that would allow primary care practices to see new refugees without becoming financially overwhelmed. The report also takes a look at replication efforts in other parts of the State, offering lessons learned and next steps for implementing the model. 

Watch a video about the model’s impact on newly resettled refugees, along with the community and health benefits it has generated.

Mr. Pha* knew no one in the United States when he arrived in Rochester in 2009 as a refugee from Burma. But within his first week here, he was able to find a place to stay, receive a health screening, and get school placement assistance with help from RGH and the hospital’s local refugee resettlement partners. Read more