Campus News

UB to host fifth annual Refugee Health Summit

Attendees at last year's health summit applaud a speaker.

Attendees at last year's Refugee Health Summit heard a presentation on improving health literacy for Buffalo's refugee population. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published April 11, 2018

“We have a unique position to play in understanding the intricacies of health and well-being for our new American neighbors, populations facing continued uncertainty and fear.”
Pavani Ram, co-director
Community for Global Health Equity

UB will host its fifth annual WNY Refugee Health Summit from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at the Educational Opportunity Center, 555 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

The summit unites 150 clinicians, resettlement caseworkers, community health workers, researchers, students, municipal leaders and refugees to understand the many factors affecting health and well-being for refugee populations in Buffalo. These factors include access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services, efficient clinic and transportation systems and operations, and available economic opportunities.

Home to a booming manufacturing center with available jobs, an abundant and inexpensive housing market, low health care costs, and what was once the largest transshipment port in the world, the City of Good Neighbors has welcomed new arrivals to the country for hundreds of years. Buffalo has a unique history — as far back as the mid-1800s — of welcoming communities that are escaping famine, war and political strife.

Today, Erie County resettles the highest number of refugees in New York State, which is the third-highest resettlement state in the U.S. after California and Texas. Buffalo’s new Americans are contributing to a housing boom and economic development, according to a report published last year by New American Economy. However, they are living amidst great uncertainty. The reduction to the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. during 2017 has split families apart. Increases in gun violence are re-traumatizing communities escaping violence and fear, while hate crimes and bias are on the rise.

Buffalo’s care providers — clinicians, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and lawyers, among others — must deliver appropriate care to populations representing numerous religions, cultural and ethnic traditions, and languages. Provision of culturally appropriate care for diverse patients takes much time and resources. Funding cuts, inadequate professional and pre-professional training, and a constant lack of time complicates providers’ abilities to deliver appropriate and inclusive care and services.

“The University at Buffalo seeks to create positive change within our local and global populations. We have a unique position to play in understanding the intricacies of health and well-being for our new American neighbors, populations facing continued uncertainty and fear,” says Pavani Ram, co-director of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity.

“Our partnerships have led to important studies illustrating the diverse factors that affect refugee health and well-being including the diversity of food environments, efficiencies of clinic operations, access to cultural and linguistic care and resources, cultural nuances related to mental health, and youth empowerment,” Ram adds.

UB’s Refugee Health Summit will highlight these partnerships. The event is free and open to the public. To register for the event, or learn more, visit the summit’s website.

The summit is co-sponsored by UB’s Community for Global Health Equity and the School of Public Health and Health Professions’ Office of Global Health Initiatives.

The summit will begin with a welcome from Ram, co-director of the Community for Global Health Equity; Jo Freudenheim, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health; and Lina Mu, director of the Office of Global Health Initiatives.

A series of town hall discussions will take place throughout the day, featuring presenters and panelists from a mix of schools at UB, as well as representatives from community and governmental organizations directly involved with refugee health and well-being. Topics include building culturally competent environments, improving clinic operations, improving mental health care, strategies for reducing Medicaid processing gaps, and programs and issues that impact younger refugees.