The purpose of this paper is to further understand the medical experiences of Karen refugees who have been resettled to the USA. It examines the use of traditional medicine throughout the transition from Burma to the USA, as well as refugees’ experiences in the American healthcare system. This study aims to identify shortcomings in refugees’ access to preferred methods of healthcare.
Interviews were conducted with 39 Karen refugees in 3 US cities with large populations of refugees from Burma – Fort Wayne, Indiana; Amarillo, Texas; and Buffalo, New York. Participants were asked questions about their healthcare experiences in Burma and the USA, their use of traditional medicine in both countries and their satisfaction with medical care in the USA.
Nearly all interviewees reported using traditional medicine in Burma, but only six felt able to continue to use traditional methods in the USA. Most participants had positive experiences with healthcare in America, but 15 expressed dissatisfaction with obtaining health insurance and confusion over its coverage. Findings also indicate that refugees do not feel that traditional practices are accepted in the USA.
Due to the language barrier, a phone interpreter was used for non-English-speaking participants, which may have affected proper understanding or clarity of answers.
This study brings to attention the need to improve refugee healthcare by encouraging traditional practices and assisting refugees with obtaining health insurance.
This paper identifies the importance of analyzing the accessibility of various forms of healthcare, including traditional medicine, to refugees in the USA.
Support for this study was provided by the Fordham Undergraduate Research Program through an Undergraduate Research Grant. All travel and accommodations necessary to complete this study were funded by the grant.
Wodniak, N. (2018), "Experiences of Karen refugees with traditional and western medicine in the USA", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 387-399. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-03-2018-0017Download as .RIS
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