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Model: Case 3 and timing of Medical Peace Work

Week 3 wrap up

This week we focused on the challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers when seeking healthcare. We learned about their rights to health care, and how to help overcome the barriers to healthcare access. We hope you have found this week’s content interesting. Thanks a lot for all the good contributions that you have made to the discussions! Many of you obviously have a lot of experience and knowledge about these issues already!

We have discussed that every human being should have equal rights to health care, but this is often not granted for refugee populations due to legal, logistical or financial barriers. Even if there is equal legal access to health care logistical or financial barriers put refugees in a situation where their access is usually not be equitable. While the term equality is usually understood as treating everyone alike, equity is usually understood as trying to reach the same level of for example access to health care for different groups. This means the more vulnerable a group is, the more should be done for this group. With respect to refugee health this means extra effort in order to cross language and cultural barriers from the health care provider’s side. There are two ways to overcome this. One would be to work outside the state health system through the voluntary sector; this can be called a humanitarian approach. But this approach relies on the dedication and availability of individuals, and may therefore result in an inconsistent offer of services, and refugees can be seen as “recipients” of welfare. The alternative is a rights-based approach, based on the inalienable “right to health” and the “highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being” (as proposed in the constitution of the World Health Organization). This approach demands that health equity for refugees should not be dependent on presence or absence of voluntary efforts, but rather be granted and provided by government legislation and formal health system. Health workers can take roles within both approaches. Health care workers involved in both approaches often feel they can increase their impact in one field through their experience and insight into the other.

Another group of traumatized patients (partly overlapping with the groups mentioned this week) are survivors of torture. Next week we will focus on how health professionals can assist this particularly vulnerable group. We look forward to continuing our learning then!

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Medical Peace Work

University of Bergen

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