University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Understanding Barriers to Care for Refugee Patients: Lessons From Focus Groups

Joanna Balza, RN; Savitri Tsering, MSSW; Julia Dickson-Gomez, PhD; Tierney Hall; Caitlin Kaeppler, MD

WMJ. 2022;121(2):141-144

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Background: Refugee populations resettled in the United States face health disparities and barriers to accessing care. Better understanding of the barriers this population faces may help clinicians address them.

Methods: Focus groups with refugees were held in Wisconsin. Discussion prompts such as “What could be done to improve health in your community?” were used. Notes from the focus groups were organized and coded using MAXQDA.

Results: Six themes were identified from the focus groups regarding health care barriers and experiences: language, interpretation, pharmacy, insurance, transportation, and respect.

Discussion: Clinicians working with refugee populations can strive to minimize barriers to care for refugee patients by being aware of the barriers, implementing changes in their practice, and/or community advocacy.

Author Affiliations: Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Balza, Dickson-Gomez, Kaeppler); Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Madison, Wisconsin (Tsering, Hall).
Corresponding Author: Joanna Balza, RN, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226; phone 414.955.8800; email
Funding/Support: This work was supported with funding from a Refugee Health Promotion Grant from the Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Refugee Health Program.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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