Building a Healthcare Navigation Program with the Bhutanese Refugees of Philadelphia

Statement of Problem

There are approximately 2,000 Bhutanese refugees in Philadelphia. After arriving in the United States, refugees must quickly learn to navigate a host of complex US systems, such as healthcare, with minimal support. As a result, refugees often forgo necessary healthcare or accrue large bills due to lack of awareness of safety-net medical services.

Building a Healthcare Navigation Program with the Bhutanese Refugees of Philadelphia

There are approximately 2,000 Bhutanese refugees in Philadelphia. After arriving in the United States, refugees must quickly learn to navigate a host of complex US systems, such as healthcare, with minimal support. The Health Focal Point program is community-based and helps clients solve pressing problems accessing health care, using a combined approach of direct assistance and education to help clients gain knowledge, skills, and confidence. 

The Health Focal Points program is a partnership between the Bhutanese American Organization-Philadelphia and PolicyLab. Using lessons learned from existing social service organizations serving immigrant and refugee communities, we worked with experts from the Penn Center for Community Health Workers and the Center for Public Health Initiatives to adapt a community health worker program to teach Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees to navigate the US health care system.

The program is community-based and helps clients solve pressing problems accessing health care. It uses a combined approach of direct assistance and education to help clients gain knowledge, skills, and confidence. The ultimate goal is self-reliance of the clients, empowerment of the Health Focal Point, and dissemination of an efficient and effective model that new immigrant communities can use to help their members learn to navigate the US health system.

With funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Bhutanese American Organization-Philadelphia will continue to expand and improve the Health Focal Points program. We plan to strengthen community outreach efforts as well as include more outreach to engage parents of children under the age of 18. Lastly, we aim to conduct a rigorous outcomes evaluation to document program effectiveness. 

 

Additional Information:

Bhutanese Refugee Community:
Bhutan Refugees Renew Farming in US, YouTube
"Bhutan is No Shangri-La", The New York Times
Bhutan News Service
NRB: The Voice of Non Resident Bhutanese

Community Health Worker Programs:
Penn Center for Community Health Workers
Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
Colorado Patient Navigator Training Collaborative
"Understanding Why Patients of Low Socioeconomic Status Prefer Hospitals Over Ambulatory Care", Health Affairs
"Role Development of Community Health Workers: An Examination of Selection and Training Processes in the Intervention Literature", American Journal of Preventive Medicine