Potential Impact of COVID-19 on Recently Resettled Refugee Populations in the United States and Canada: Perspectives of Refugee Healthcare Providers

J Immigr Minor Health. 2021 Feb;23(1):184-189. doi: 10.1007/s10903-020-01104-4. Epub 2020 Oct 16.


Recently resettled refugee populations may be at greater risk for exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus that causes coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), and face unique challenges in following recommendations to protect their health. Several factors place resettled refugees at elevated risk for exposure to persons with COVID-19 or increased severity of COVID-19: being more likely to experience poverty and live in crowded housing, being employed in less protected, service-sector jobs, experiencing language and health care access barriers, and having higher rates of co-morbidities. In preparing for and managing COVID-19, resettled refugees encounter similar barriers to those of other racial or ethnic minority populations, which may then be exacerbated by unique barriers experienced from being a refugee. Key recommendations for resettlement and healthcare providers include analyzing sociodemographic data about refugee patients, documenting and resolving barriers faced by refugees, developing refugee-specific outreach plans, using culturally and linguistically appropriate resources, ensuring medical interpretation availability, and leveraging virtual platforms along with nontraditional community partners to disseminate COVID-19 messaging.

Keywords: COVID-19; Culturally and linguistically appropriate services; Health disparities; Healthcare access; Language and cultural barriers; Primary care; Recommendations; Resettled refugee; Resettlement.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Crowding
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Refugees*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology