Health of adolescent refugees resettling in high-income countries

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Abstract

Adolescent refugees are a vulnerable population with complex healthcare needs that are distinct from younger and older age groups. Physical health problems are common in this cohort with communicable diseases being the focus of attention followed by an emphasis on nutritional deficiencies and other chronic disorders. Adolescent refugees have also often experienced multiple traumatic stressors and are at a heightened risk of developing mental health problems. Navigating these problems at the time of pubertal development adds further challenges and can exacerbate or lead to the emergence of health risk behaviours. Educational difficulties and acculturation issues further compound these issues. Adolescents who have had experiences in detention or are unaccompanied by parents are particularly at risk. Despite a constantly growing number of adolescent refugees resettling in high-income countries, knowledge regarding their specific healthcare needs is limited. Research data are largely extrapolated from studies conducted within paediatric and adult cohorts. Holistic management of the medical and psychological issues faced by this group is challenging and requires an awareness of the socioeconomic factors that can have an impact on effective healthcare delivery. Legal and ethical issues can further complicate their management and addressing these in a culturally appropriate manner is essential. Early identification and management of the healthcare issues faced by adolescent refugees resettling in high-income countries are key to improving long-term health outcomes and future healthcare burden. This review article aims to increase knowledge and awareness of these issues among paediatricians and other health professionals.

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