Journal of Community Health

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 1110–1118 | Cite as

High Prevalence of Chronic Non-Communicable Conditions Among Adult Refugees: Implications for Practice and Policy

  • Katherine YunEmail author
  • Kelly Hebrank
  • Lauren K. Graber
  • Mary-Christine Sullivan
  • Isabel Chen
  • Jhumka Gupta
Original Paper


The global rise in non-communicable disease (NCD) suggests that US-based refugees are increasingly affected by chronic conditions. However, health services have focused on the detection of infectious disease, with relatively limited data on chronic NCDs. Using data from a retrospective medical record review of a refugee health program in the urban Northeast (n = 180), we examined the prevalence of chronic NCDs and NCD risk factors among adult refugees who had recently arrived in the US, with attention to region of origin and family composition. Family composition was included because low-income adults without dependent children are at high risk of becoming uninsured. We found that half of the adult refugees in this sample had at least one chronic NCD (51.1%), and 9.5% had three or more NCDs. Behavioral health diagnoses were most common (15.0%), followed by hypertension (13.3%). Half of adults were overweight or obese (54.6%). Chronic NCDs were somewhat more common among adults from Iraq, but this difference was not significant (56.8 vs. 44.6%). Chronic NCDs were common among adults with and without dependent children (61.4 vs. 44.6%, respectively), and these two groups did not significantly differ in their likelihood of having a chronic NCD after adjustment for age and gender (AOR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.39, 1.55). This study suggests that chronic NCDs are common among adult refugees in the US, including refugees at high risk for uninsurance. We propose that refugee health services accommodate screening and treatment for chronic NCDs and NCD risk factors, and that insurance outreach and enrollment programs target recently arrived refugees.


Emigrant and immigrant/chronic diseases Refugees/chronic diseases Refugees/epidemiology 



This study was made possible by CTSA Grant Number UL1 RR024139 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NIH roadmap for Medical Research. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Yun
    • 1
    • 7
    Email author
  • Kelly Hebrank
    • 2
  • Lauren K. Graber
    • 3
  • Mary-Christine Sullivan
    • 4
  • Isabel Chen
    • 5
  • Jhumka Gupta
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.IRIS—Integrated Refugee and Immigrant ServicesNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Yale School of MedicineYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Lahey ClinicIpswichUSA
  5. 5.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  6. 6.Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public HealthYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  7. 7.34th and Civic Center BlvdThe Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA

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