Over the last ten years, there has been an influx in the number of refugees being resettled in the Denver area. Among other obstacles, many refugees struggle to navigate the complexities of the American health care system and, more specifically, their personal medical care. Three years ago, a group of medical students, in conjunction with 2040 Partners for Health, established a partnership with the community of refugees from Burma using a community based participatory research approach to identify the most pressing health-related problems from the perspective of the community members. Together, the community partners and medical students established alcohol use as one of their most significant concerns. Youth members of our partnership recognized that with alcohol use comes additional health complications, community conflict, and domestic violence. From this foundation, the project began working toward the goal of developing and implementing a sustainable and culturally appropriate alcohol abuse intervention, as well as increasing awareness about alcohol use within the refugee community from Burma.
Key informant interviews conducted thus far have led us to hypothesize that some potential
issues surrounding alcohol use include a lack of understanding about the repercussions of
illegal alcohol use in America, insufficient information about the effects of alcohol on
the body, and the cultural stigma against mental health or substance-use disorders. There
are likely many more precipitating factors that we have yet to identify, but which will be
explored in our research.
The future directions of our project include conducting a formal needs assessment in the community of refugees from Burma, maintaining and strengthening partnerships with community youth and leaders, and designing culturally appropriate programs to address the identified disparities.