Refugees can receive more and better services when the people who support them have access to complete and accurate information on their healthcare needs. However, this may be challenging as health departments work to reach more refugees in their case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) efforts.
Database Linkages Can Streamline COVID-19 response
Resettlement agencies support refugees as they interact with their communities. They connect refugees to education, employment opportunities, healthcare and more.
Resettlement agencies are uniquely positioned to offer culturally and linguistically relevant support to refugees who test positive for COVID-19. They can assist with CICT, and even connect refugees with support while they isolate or quarantine. For example, they may arrange for grocery deliveries or give them a safe place to isolate away from others.
These agencies already have information on their clients’ health, but if a refugee tests positive for COVID-19, the agency often has no way of knowing.
To more effectively stop the spread of COVID-19 within RIM communities, some states have linked refugee health databases and state COVID-19 databases. These linkages make sure everyone involved in supporting the refugee has access to critical information, like preferred language. This leads to quicker and more effective CICT efforts that reach RIM community members. Sharing information from the databases also streamlines COVID-19 prevention efforts and helps health departments serve their harder-to-reach populations.
Database Linkages with Utah’s State Refugee Health program
Utah's Refugee Health Program works to support the health needs of newly arrived refugees in Utah. The program has developed a refugee health database that tracks refugee health screening and follow-up data. During the COVID-19 response, the Utah Refugee Health program worked on matching cases between the refugee health database and the state COVID-19 database. The matching process was done by merging cases using first, last name, and date of birth (DOB) and utilizing the data available in each system. As some of the refugees had similar DOBs, a quality check step was added to ensure the matching process was completed accurately. Once the refugee cases were identified, the refugee health program would reach out to the health departments to check and see if the health department already communicated with the newly arrived refugees. If not, the refugee health team would provide interpretation and contact tracing support for CICT efforts at the local level. Supporting the health departments with CICT, particularly addressing the needs of people who have limited English proficiency and people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, saved the health departments both resources and time in conducting their CICT interventions.