Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 246–256 | Cite as

Trends in Chronic Diseases Reported by Refugees Originating from Burma Resettling to the United States from Camps Versus Urban Areas During 2009–2016

  • Barbara H. BardenheierEmail author
  • Christina R. Phares
  • Diane Simpson
  • Edward Gregg
  • Pyone Cho
  • Stephen Benoit
  • Nina Marano
Original Paper


We examined changes in the prevalence of chronic health conditions among US-bound refugees originating from Burma resettling over 8 years by the type of living arrangement before resettlement, either in camps (Thailand) or in urban areas (Malaysia). Using data from the required overseas medical exam for 73,251 adult (≥ 18 years) refugees originating from Burma resettling to the United States during 2009–2016, we assessed average annual percent change (AAPC) in proportion ≥ 45 years and age- and sex-standardized prevalence of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and musculoskeletal disease, by camps versus urban areas. Compared with refugees resettling from camps, those coming from urban settings had higher prevalence of obesity (mean 18.0 vs. 5.9%), diabetes (mean 6.5 vs. 0.8%), and hypertension (mean 12.7 vs. 8.1%). Compared with those resettling from camps, those from urban areas saw greater increases in the proportion with COPD (AAPC: 109.4 vs. 9.9) and musculoskeletal disease (AAPC: 34.6 vs. 1.6). Chronic conditions and their related risk factors increased among refugees originating from Burma resettling to the United States whether they had lived in camps or in urban areas, though the prevalence of such conditions was higher among refugees who had lived in urban settings.


Refugees originating from Burma Chronic conditions Camps and urban settings Resettling 



We would like to thank Drs. Olga Gorbacheva and Dmitry Shapovalov in the International Organization for Migration in Thailand and Malaysia, who managed the refugee programs and collaborated with the panel physicians. Their work contributed to the quality of the data submitted to EDN. We would also like to thank Dr. Michelle Weinberg of CDC’s Immigrant, Refugee, and Migrant Health Branch for her review of the manuscript. This work was funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

All data used for this analysis were collected in the course of routine refugee resettlement practices. This project was determined to be non-research by a CDC human subjects advisor.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara H. Bardenheier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christina R. Phares
    • 1
  • Diane Simpson
    • 1
  • Edward Gregg
    • 2
  • Pyone Cho
    • 2
  • Stephen Benoit
    • 2
  • Nina Marano
    • 1
  1. 1.Immigrant, Refugee, and Migrant Health Branch, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious DiseasesCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Diabetes TranslationCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA

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