First discussion topic essay

Discuss how social, economic, political or cultural factors may affect an individual’s or community’s right to health

According the 1951 Refugee Convention (UNHCR, 1951) Refugee is someone “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

So, a refugee is someone who’s been forced from his or hers country, from one’s culture, home, money… They can end up in refugee camps just across their home country’s border, or they can be resettled in a country on the other side of the world. Studies have shown that not only post traumatic stress, but also the big changes in social settings effect refugees’ health in a negative way. (Matanov et. al, 2013).

According to the UNHCR and the 1951 Refugee Convention refugees all around the world should have the same right to health as the population of the host country. However, many factors can complicate matters. For example; language barriers, cross-cultural medicine and health system literacy (Eckstein, 2011).

Alghothani, Alghothani and Atassi (2011) describe in their study an understaffed medical service in the refugee camp for refugees from Syria in Turkey. Even though Turkey has set up health care, with physicians there during the day, several more are needed. They also describe further need for education on matters such as personal hygiene, exercise, medical compliance, acknowledgment and acceptance of psychiatric conditions. (Alghothani, Alghotani and Atassi, 2011)

Eckstein (2011) also writes that one of the most common problems for resettling refugees is musculoskeletal pain. A study about refugees in Sweden (Sundqust, 2010) also shows that refugees, both men and women, have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, overweight and physical inactivity, refugees are a group of people with a big health care need, but can their need be met when there still isn’t a legal responsibility for the rest of the world to host refugees? (The UN Refugee Agency, 2012). I find that hard to believe.

The fact that people suffers from diseases when they arrive to their ”new countries” (Eckstein, 2011) also speaks for the fact that the health care provided in refugee camps aren’t enough and their right to health isn’t met.


Alghothani, N., Alghothani Y. & Atassi, B. Evaluation of a short-term medical mission to Syrian refugee camps in Turkey. Avicenna Journal of Medicine. 2012. 4:2

Eckstein, B. Primary Care for Refugees. American Family Physician. 2011. 4:83. Matanov, A. et al. Subjective quality of life in war-affected populations. BMC Public Health 2013, 13:624

The UN Refugee Agency. The state of the world’s refugees. Chapter 8: State responsibility and international responsibility. 2012.

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