The worldwide response to the HIV epidemic provides a standard which researchers, policymakers, and providers can use to better service those with non-communicable, chronic diseases, particularly in emergencies. In a recent study, Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and ICAP global director, and Dr. Miriam Rabkin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia and director of Health Systems Strategy at ICAP, and Fouad M. Fouad, assistant research professor of epidemiology and population health at the American University of Beirut, explored evidence-based approaches, intensive patient education, and the use of outreach workers and peer educators as potential lessons from HIV programs in order to reevaluate and redesign refugee health services.
The refugee crisis is a contemporary problem, highlighting the significance of this research. While the health needs of displaced groups have expanded in recent years, health and relief organizations have traditionally concentrated on infectious diseases, acute illness, and reproductive health. Chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, are gaining attention as a serious burden for refugees, and especially for refugees from middle-income countries, such as Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine.
According to Dr. El-Sadr, “The challenge of providing services for chronic illness in the context of displacement is a daunting one, given that a key element of effective care for NCDs is continuity – the need to deliver coordinated services over time, but evidence from HIV programs shows that continuity care can be delivered in challenging settings – including in complex humanitarian emergencies – and suggests key priorities for NCD services for forcibly displaced people.”