Health Behaviors Associated with Chronic Disease Development and Management among Iraqi Refugees

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Capstone Committee Chair: Dr. Rickie Brawer

Capstone Committee Preceptor:Nancy Chernett


The number of Iraqi refugees resettled in the U.S. over the past 6 years has increased, with 1091 having resettled in the Philadelphia, PA. Limited and conflicting information about Iraqi refugee’s health status, including chronic disease prevalence and health behaviors, prior to and after resettling in U.S. indicates need more detailed information about this segment of the population. This research study aims to identify behaviors associated with chronic diseases among Iraqi refugees, and to describe barriers preventing them from adopting healthy lifestyles and adequately managing their chronic health conditions. The study used mixed methodology to assess enabling, reinforcing and barriers factors related to health behaviors and chronic disease management with a convenience sample of 60 resettled Iraqis in Philadelphia. An in-person quantitative survey was administered to all 60 participants; a semi-structured interview was also conducted with 10 of the 60, which was audiotaped. Audiotaped interviews were transcribed, coded, and entered in an Excel spreadsheet. SPSS statistical analysis software was used to analyze the data, and descriptive statistics (means, frequencies, %) were calculated. The results revealed that 28.3% of Iraqi refugees smoke. Most participants indicated they were physically active. Although, Iraqi refugees were found to have healthy diets, however, 71.67% were found to be overweight or obese, with the majority underestimating their weight. The major barriers identified to be preventing Iraqi refugees from adopting healthy lifestyles choices were: long wait times to obtain health services, physicians not recommending preventive care screenings, the cost of healthcare in the U.S. lack of health insurance, and long work hours. Recommendations that may assist resettled Iraqi refugees adopt healthier lifestyles behaviors conditions include: 1) smoking cessation intervention—particularly targeted at men as well as hookah use; 2) education intervention to increase Iraqi refugees’ awareness of weight management; 3) impressing upon physicians to inform patients about preventive care; 4) assistance with completing health insurance applications; 5) providing care management for those with multiple needs; and offering help navigating the healthcare system.

Presentation: 26 minutes