Improving primary health care quality for refugees and asylum seekers: A systematic review of interventional approaches

Health Expect. 2021 Oct 15. doi: 10.1111/hex.13365. Online ahead of print.


Background: It has been widely acknowledged that refugees are at risk of poorer health outcomes, spanning mental health and general well-being. A common point of access to health care for the migrant population is via the primary health care network in the country of resettlement. This review aims to synthesize the evidence of primary health care interventions to improve the quality of health care provided to refugees and asylum seekers.

Methods: A systematic review was undertaken, and 55 articles were included in the final review. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews was used to guide the reporting of the review, and articles were managed using a reference-management software (Covidence). The findings were analysed using a narrative empirical synthesis. A quality assessment was conducted for all the studies included.

Results: The interventions within the broad primary care setting could be organized into four categories, that is, those that focused on developing the skills of individual refugees/asylum seekers and their families; skills of primary health care workers; system and/or service integration models and structures; and lastly, interventions enhancing communication services. Promoting effective health care delivery for refugees, asylum seekers and their families is a complex challenge faced by primary care professionals, the patients themselves and the communication between them.

Conclusion: This review highlights the innovative interventions in primary care promoting refugee health. Primary care interventions mostly focused on upskilling doctors, with a paucity of research exploring the involvement of other health care members. Further research can explore the involvement of interprofessional team members in providing effective refugee/migrant health.

Patient or public contribution: Patient and public involvement was explored in terms of interventions designed to improve health care delivery for the humanitarian migrant population, that is, specifically refugees and asylum seekers.

Keywords: OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries; asylum seekers; interventions; primary health care; refugees; systematic review.