Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The health of newly arrived refugees to the Top End of Australia: results of a clinical audit at the Darwin Refugee Health Service

Vanessa Johnston A D , Le Smith B and Heather Roydhouse C

A Menzies School of Health Research, Charles Darwin University and Northern Territory Centre for Disease Control, PO Box 41096, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia.

B General Practice Network NT, PO Box 552, Noonamah, NT 0837, Australia.

C Royal Children’s Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: vanessa.johnston@menzies.edu.au

Australian Journal of Primary Health 18(3) 242-247 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/PY11065
Submitted: 14 June 2011  Accepted: 5 October 2011   Published: 9 December 2011

Abstract

Accurate data on the health of refugees in primary care is vital to inform clinical practice, monitor disease prevalence, influence policy and promote coordination. We undertook a retrospective clinical audit of newly arrived refugees attending the Darwin refugee primary health service in its first 12 months of operation. Data were collected from the clinic files of refugee patients who attended for their initial health assessment from 1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010 and were analysed descriptively. Among 187 refugees who attended in 2009–2010, ~60% were from Asia and 42% were female. The most common diagnoses confirmed by testing were vitamin D deficiency (23%), hepatitis B carrier status (22%), tuberculosis infection (18%), schistosomiasis (17%) and anaemia (17%). The most common documented health conditions recorded by the GPs were vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency (66%), followed by schistosomiasis (24%) and dental disease (23%). This clinical audit adds to a limited evidence base suggesting a high prevalence of infectious disease, nutrient deficiency and dental disease among refugees arriving to Australia. GPs involved in the care of refugees must be aware of the epidemiology of disease in this group, as some diseases are rare among the general Australian population. Our results also highlight the ongoing need for advocacy to address service constraints such as limited public dental access for this population.


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