Research

Addressing chronic diseases in protracted emergencies: Lessons from HIV for a new health imperative

By Miriam Rabkin, Fouad M. Fouad, and Wafaa M. El-Sadr
Published in Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice

ABSTRACT

Forcible displacement has reached unprecedented levels, with more refugees and internally displaced people reported since comprehensive statistics have been collected. The rising numbers of refugees requiring health services, the protracted nature of modern displacement, and the changing demographics of refugee populations have created compelling new health needs and challenges. In addition to the risk of malnutrition, infectious diseases and exposure to the elements attendant upon conflict and the breakdown of public health systems, many displaced people now require continuity care for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and mental health, as well as maternal and child health services. In some regions, most refugee health services need to be provided in dispersed settings within host communities, rather than in traditional refugee camps, and the number of refugees suffering protracted displacement is growing rapidly. These realities highlight a significant disconnect between the health needs of twenty-first century refugees, and the global systems that have been established to address them. The global response to the HIV epidemic offers lessons about ways to support continuity care for chronic conditions during complex emergencies and may provide important blueprints as the global community struggles to redesign refugee health services.

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