Effective Screening for Emotional Distress in Refugees: The Refugee Health Screener

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Screening for emotional distress is important, but not widely available. This study assesses the utility of the Refugee Health Screener 15 (RHS-15) in a public health setting. Refugee Health Screener 15 and diagnostic proxy (DP) instruments assessing anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder were administered to refugees from 3 countries at their public health examination. Properties of the RHS-15 and its components were evaluated utilizing appropriate methods. Scale Cronbach α was 0.95, and a factor analysis identified 1 factor accounting for 66% of scale variance. Refugee Health Screener 15 scores and cases discriminated between refugee groups similar to DPs. Refugee Health Screener 15 case sensitivity and specificity to DPs were acceptable (≥0.87/0.77). A shorter, 13-item component had acceptable metric properties. The RHS-15 appears to be a valid screener for emotional distress of refugees. The 13-item scale may be more efficient and as efficacious for case identification. The critical public health need and recommendations for implementation are discussed.

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