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Feature: August/September 2014

The Physical and Psychological Sequelae in Adult Refugees or Asylum Seekers Who Have Survived Torture: Literature Review

By: Ashley McCulley

Article 5 Artwork Every year the United States (US) plays host to refugees and asylum seekers who have been uprooted from their homelands. Many of these refugees have gone through unspeakable traumas and torture. Coming to a new country can be a terrifying experience and many do not know where to turn or how to express what they have been through.  As refugees and asylum seekers are seen in clinics and emergency rooms across the country, there is an increased need for healthcare providers to understand the signs and symptoms of both the physical and psychological sequelae of torture. The purpose of this literature review is to explore the physical and psychological sequelae that occur in adult refugee or asylum seeker populations who have survived torture.

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Recent Features

Phrases of Courtesy in Nine languages: 
A tool for medical providers

By Benji Perin, MD Candidate (2015), University of Washington School of Medicine

In the provider-patient relationship, the path to positive health outcomes begins with a human connection. Developing rapport lays the foundation for each successive stage of the visit — from agenda setting and gathering information, to sharing information and involving patients in creating their treatment plans.

Language barriers make each one of these steps more difficult. Professional interpreters play a crucial role in helping providers and patients communicate, but the important work of making a connection still falls to the caregiver.

Phrases Tool
Click on the image to access Phrases of Courtesy in Nine Languages: A Tool for Medical Providers.

The goal of this tool is to provide a jumping-off point for developing rapport in the interpreted health encounter. Using phrases of courtesy in a patient's own language shows interest and respect, allows at least a few moments of direct connection between patient and provider, and hopefully sends the conversation for a brief sojourn into social waters with the interpreter as navigator. This language learning tool features videos of native speakers saying phrases of courtesy in nine languages. These phrases of greeting, introduction, acknowledgment, departure and for emergency situations in a clinical setting can be played at a normal speed and at a slow speed. Making a connection in this way is not just courtesy, but lays the foundation for the highest standard of care, a standard we wish to see extended to all patients, regardless of their English proficiency.  Read more...

Multimedia Patient Education Highlight: Cancer

EthnoMed and Healthy Roads Media, in collaboration with the Community House Calls Program at Harborview and its community partners, produced a series of handouts and Flash video slideshows in seven languages (Amharic, English, Khmer, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya and Vietnamese) that provide introductory information about several topics: biopsy procedures, cancer chemotherapy, prostate cancer and surgeries for breast cancer.

Biopsy | Cancer Chemotherapy | Prostate Cancer | Surgeries for Breast Cancer

iPadCancer education was identified by the Community House Calls staff as a major area of need for EthnoMed content development. The program's Caseworker / Cultural Mediators (CCMs) served as advisors and narrators, community members provided linguistic/cultural input, and health care providers gave clinical input to develop the new education materials.  The project also supports CCMs in utilizing iPads for delivering health education to patients and community groups.

The new materials are available for web viewing via both the EthnoMed and Healthy Roads Media websites.  Healthy Roads Media is also hosting audio and mobile video formats and an online survey to gather feedback for assessing the utility of these materials.

This project was funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under Contract No. HHS-N-276-2011-0008-C with the University of Washington. A special thank you to Safeway Foundation for its support to Harborview Medical Center’s EthnoMed for the development of cancer-related content.


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Welcome to EthnoMed

EthnoMed contains information about cultural beliefs, medical issues and related topics pertinent to the health care of immigrants to Seattle or the US, many of whom are refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the world.

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Torture Resources

Resources for clinicians and advocates around issues of torture, often related to warfare and political repression.  Includes information about Northwest Health and Human Rights (NWHHR) coalition serving refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in Washington State.  Visit Caring for Survivors of Torture page for additional information.

Scams Targeting Refugees and Immigrants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provide information about common immigration services scams and other kinds of scams targeting refugees and immigrants. To find information about recent scams, tools and education about avoiding scams, and to learn what victims should do if targeted, read more...