Healthy In Any Language: Refugee And Immigrant Health

Throughout 2019, Side Effects will examine the health care challenges that refugees and immigrants face in the U.S. Language barriers, cultural misunderstandings and our complex bureaucracy can interfere with effective care.

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Ways to Connect

Natalie Krebs / Side Effects Public Media

Figuring out America’s healthcare system can be hard for anyone. It can be especially challenging for refugees, who often face significant language and cultural barriers. But one group is trying to bridge that gap by training refugees as health navigators in their own communities.


Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media.

Across the United States, there’s a push to give new doctors cultural training to work with refugees and other immigrants. And some say it’s the difference between healthy and sick patients.

Photo by Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead. Kazito Kalima still carries horrific memories of that time, and he shared them at a symposium.

Illustration by Tamara Cubrilo

When José moved his family to the U.S. from Mexico nearly two decades ago, he had hopes of giving his children a better life.

But now he worries about the future of his 21-year-old-son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder last year.


Paige Pfleger / WOSU

Deepa Halaharvi is a morning person.

"Eat, read, pray, and get ready to go to work," she says, laughing. "And usually I’m out the door around 6:15 or 6:30."

Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

Refugees face unique challenges to getting mental health care in the United States. Cultural differences, stigma and language barriers can make finding treatment difficult. 

Who Are Refugees And Immigrants?

Apr 23, 2019

Throughout 2019, Side Effects will examine the health care challenges that refugees and immigrants face in the United States. Language barriers, cultural misunderstandings and our complex bureaucracy can interfere with effective care.

Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. The persecution can be due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia/Side Effects Public Media

At a pediatric clinic in Kirksville, Mo., a young boy is waiting in an exam room to be vaccinated. A nurse explains the shots to his mother, and Lisette Chibanvunya translates.

Lauren Bavis/Side Effects Public Media

Kazito Kalima was 14 at the start of the Rwandan genocide. Over just a few months in 1994, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi people in his country were killed, including most of his family.