Arizona is an incredibly diverse state made up of hard-working families with roots all across the world. Here at Valleywise Health, we support refugees in Arizona and strive to provide our refugee neighbors with the specialized care they need to stay healthy and safe.
Our team not only celebrates our state’s diversity – we make it our mission to care for each and every one of the unique families that walk through our doors. At our Refugee Women’s Clinics, we hear stories of people who have overcome tremendous tragedy in order to settle in the Valley and create a safer, healthier life for their loved ones. Since 2002, over 40,000 refugees have settled in the area from 64 countries around the world.
These refugee families are not only in need of basic care – they need providers that will make that care fully accessible to them, no matter what language they speak or what their specific needs are. “Trauma-informed” care is essential for refugee patients and creates a safe space for them to receive the support they need and create a long-term plan for their health.
What is trauma-informed care, and why is it so critical for refugees in Arizona?
Trauma-informed care refers to an approach to healthcare that creates a safe, culturally-aware and sensitive space for those who have experienced trauma or extensive stressors throughout their lives.
This approach to care does not require any patient to talk about uncomfortable information or explain traumatic things that may have happened to them; it simply means healthcare providers are committed to offering thoughtful, compassionate care that assumes all patients may be coming in with preexisting anxieties or trauma responses.
When it comes to caring for refugee patients, our Refugee Women’s Clinic is dedicated to providing sensitive, compassionate care while also making sure our patients have access to the services they need to get the full-spectrum health care they deserve.
My story – Jeanne Nizigiyimana
No matter where in the world you come from, global crises can come in all forms. The vast majority of refugees in Arizona, myself included, have come here from places where we’ve experienced long-lasting war and violence.
In 1993, I was a young mother of a one-year-old and pregnant with my second child. Forced to flee my native country of Burundi after experiencing the atrocities of war, discrimination and violence, my family and I finally settled in Phoenix in 1998 after an incredibly stressful and uncertain journey, as the first four refugees from Burundi ever resettled by Arizona Refugee State office.
In my position as co-founder and program manager of the Refugee Women’s Clinic, I hear countless stories of women who have faced and escaped situations very similar to mine – that’s why my work is so critical and why I’ve dedicated my life to helping them make sure they have everything they need to keep themselves and their children physically and mentally healthy.
The consequences of leaving all you have behind, navigating intensely traumatic situations, and resettling in an unfamiliar land with unfamiliar customs can take a major toll on a person’s mental and physical health, and we need to continue building equitable healthcare practices that focuses on their needs.
Unique healthcare needs of refugees in Arizona
Trauma-informed care is essential to taking care of refugee patients. At Valleywise Health, we lean on our Cultural Health Navigators to ensure the entire appointment process is smooth from start to finish, and that our patients have accurate interpretation and translation services they need to understand their care plan and any potential diagnoses.
For refugees in Arizona, there are many structural barriers in place that make it difficult for them to find the care they need on their own. Aside from language barriers, many refugees also have a hard time finding the transportation they need to get to a hospital or clinic.
Culture shock and a lack of cultural immersion can also be huge barriers to care for people from other countries. There are many things that are different about the way the American healthcare system operates compared to healthcare in other countries. For instance, preventive care is not a focus in many other countries, and refugees in Arizona need to be educated on the importance of preventive care and checking in with their health regularly. This is especially important considering the impact such trauma can have on a person’s long-term physical and mental health.
Ultimately, caring for our refugee neighbors starts with a compassionate, accessible approach to healthcare that allows us to build trust and understanding. Refugees are irreplaceable members of our community that bring tremendous value to our nation – and we’re committed to making their journey here as smooth and healthy as possible.
To learn more about our Refugee Women’s Clinic, visit ValleywiseHealth.org or call 1 (833) VLLYWSE. We offer specialized care for refugee families out of three locations across the Valley: our Valleywise Comprehensive Health Center – Phoenix, Community Health Center – Maryvale and Community Health Center – Glendale.