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Graduate public health training in healthcare of refugee asylum seekers and clinical human rights: evaluation of an innovative curriculum

  • Original Article
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International Journal of Public Health



An innovative curriculum was developed to equip public health students with appropriate attitude and skills to address healthcare of asylum seekers.


Implemented in 2005 the curriculum included: (1) didactic sessions covering epidemiology and health sequelae of torture, asylum laws, and approaches to identify survivors’ healthcare needs; (2) panel discussions with survivors and advocates; and (3) participating in medico-legal process of asylum seeking. Complementary mixed methods evaluations included pre- and post-curriculum questionnaires, formal curriculum evaluations, final papers and oral presentations.


125 students participated. Students showed improved knowledge regrading sequelae of abuse and survivors’ healthcare needs (P < 0.01), improved attitudes towards working with survivors (P < 0.05) and self-efficacy in identifying at-risk populations and addressing healthcare of survivors (P < 0.05). Students reported increased desire to pursue global health and human rights careers.


As an advocacy and cultural competency training in public health practice addressing healthcare of refugees domestically, this curriculum was well received and effective, and will also help students better serve other similar populations. Population case-based domestic opportunities to teach global health and health and human rights should be effectively utilized to develop a well-equipped global health corps.

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The author thanks Delia Burnet and Beth Charpentier for their contribution to this curriculum and its evaluation, and Bhavani Ramesh for her contribution to the curriculum evaluation.

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Correspondence to Ramin Asgary.

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The author reports no declarations of interest.

Ethical standard

This study received the Institutional Review Board approval from the Icahn School of Medicine, New York. 

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Asgary, R. Graduate public health training in healthcare of refugee asylum seekers and clinical human rights: evaluation of an innovative curriculum. Int J Public Health 61, 279–287 (2016).

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