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Healthcare for adult immigrants and refugees

Patricia F Walker, MD, DTM&H, FASTMH
Elizabeth D Barnett, MD
William Stauffer, MD, MSPH, CTropMed, FASTMH
Section Editor
Edward T Ryan, MD, DTMH
Deputy Editor
Elinor L Baron, MD, DTMH


Components of the health assessment for immigrants and refugees include addressing patient health concerns, screening for diseases associated with the country of origin and migration history, initiating age-appropriate immunizations, and routine healthcare maintenance. Guidance on a broad range of topics related to immigrant and refugee health in the United States is available from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [1]. (See "Preventive care in adults: Recommendations".)

Issues related to healthcare for adult immigrants and refugees will be reviewed here; issues related to international adoption are discussed separately. (See "International adoption: Immunization considerations" and "International adoption: Infectious disease aspects".)


Migrants refer to individuals who come to resettle in a new country. Types of migrants include:

Refugee – Someone who, "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country" [2]. Refugees seek to establish their status as a refugee having fled their country of origin and while residing in a country of first asylum.

Asylum seeker – An individual who has submitted a claim to a government for refugee status and is waiting for the claim to be accepted or rejected. Asylum seekers seek to establish their refugee status after fleeing to a country where they hope to be granted asylum.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 17, 2017.
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