Promoting Health

Pediatric Residents Address Health Needs of Refugee Children

By: Melissa Held, MD, FAAP

They are among the most vulnerable patients we see.

They are children who have been displaced from their countries due to violence and political unrest. They are young refugees seeking to rebuild their lives with their families here in Connecticut, a world away from the countries from which they fled.

Understandably, the children come to us in great need. Fortunately, through our newly launched Global Child Health Clinic, we are able to help.

The clinic officially launched in January and was a project I envisioned years ago while helping refugees during my medical training at another institution.

Melissa Held, MD

Melissa Held, MD

While I developed and oversee the clinic, I am fortunate to have help from pediatric residents who selected refugee outreach as their area of focus in completing their required advocacy and community health training.

The residents assist me in carefully reviewing medical histories of the children we see, who are referred to us by Catholic Charities in Hartford, which is an organization that works to resettle and provide support to the refugee population of Greater Hartford.

Learn more about our Resident Education in Advocacy and Community Health program here.

The residents also assist in ensuring the children are up to date on their vaccinations so they can attend school, as well as screen them for infectious diseases, nutritional disorders and mental health concerns.

Since the clinic is not designed for long-term care, the residents also work with me to develop care plans for the children and locate primary care physicians for their ongoing care.

Care plans are passed on to a child’s new primary care provider, so they are able to easily determine what immunizations and screenings have already been administered and what still needs to be done. They also detail specific recommendations and guidelines for treating a child, which can be a helpful tool as many providers are unfamiliar with best practices for working with refugees.

Fortunately, the children often move to primary care centers affiliated with Connecticut Children’s so the same residents are able to continue caring for them, which helps to ease what is yet another transition for these children and families to endure.

In addition to helping the children in a clinical setting, the residents work with Catholic Charities to provide health education to parents so they can optimally care for their children in their new homes.

Since opening in January, the Global Child Health Clinic has assisted seven children.

One of the first children we saw arrived wearing soccer cleats for shoes and lacked proper clothing to navigate our harsh Connecticut winter. Our residents provided her with a pair of sneakers as well as a winter coat, gloves and scarf, through a special fund established by a former Connecticut Children’s pediatrician to provide assistance to families in need.

The pediatric residents also obtained a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics to provide transportation for families to the Global Child Health Clinic, as well as provide toys and games to make children more comfortable during appointments.

The clinic is serving a great need in the Hartford area, as it addresses a gap that previously went unaddressed.

We are pleased to help the residents fulfill their community health training through this effort. We also look forward to providing medical care to additional refugees in the months and years ahead to ensure a healthy transition as they settle in Connecticut.

Melissa Held, MD is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She also serves as assistant dean of medical education at UConn School of Medicine.

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