Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center

Early Mental Health Screening

The circumstances that necessitate flight from one's country and the experience of resettlement can predispose refugees towards a variety of mental health challenges.  The prevalence of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder is generally  higher in refugee populations compared to those who are U.S.-born. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all new refugee arrivals receive a mental health screening.  However, challenges such as lack of time and lack of appropriate tools have resulted in only seven states routinely using a standardized, culturally-appropriate assessment tool to conduct a mental health screening during the Refugee Health Assessment.


It can be difficult to find a screening tool that is culturally appropriate for refugees, available in a variety of languages and can be administered quickly.  The Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15), by Pathways to Wellness, was developed with this in mind.  The RHS-15 is a sensitive tool that is able to detect a range of emotional and somatic distress common among various refugee populations. It is available in languages spoken by resettling refugees, including Arabic, Burmese, Karen, Russian, and Nepali. 

By detecting mental health issues early, the RHS-15 may ease the transition during resettlement by helping connect symptomatic refugees with services for further evaluation and treatment for behavioral and emotional problems.    


Read more about refugee mental health >



Hepatitis B Screening Update

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a draft Recommendation Statement on Screening for Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Non-Pregnant Adolescents and Adults, along with an accompanying draft Evidence Report.  The USPSTF draft statement recommends screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) in persons at high risk for infection. 


One major risk factor for HBV infection is country of origin.  In the United States, persons born in countries with an HBV prevalence of 2% or greater account for 47% to 95% of the chronically infected HBV population.  Another significant risk factor for HBV infection is lack of vaccination in infancy in U.S.-born persons with parents from a high-prevalence country (≥8%).   

Take the RHTAC User Survey!

RTHAC is gathering information about the usefulness of the products featured on the RTHAC website and newsletters as well as other technical assistance needs that you may have. We invite you to participate in this survey, which should take no longer than 10 minutes. We truly appreciate your feedback.


North American Refugee Health Conference

The 4th Annual North American Refugee Health Conference will be held June 19-21, 2014 in Rochester, New York. The three-day event will focus on the best practices in refugee health. Lectures focus on contemporary issues in refugee health, mental health, OB/GYN, pediatrics, and primary care. Register here > 

New in the Literature


Adaptation of an Acculturation Scale for African Refugee Women. (2014)

Johnson-Agbakwu CEFlynn P, Asiedu GB, Hedberg E, Breitkopf CR.

J Immigr Minor Health.

Congolese and Somali beliefs about mental health services. (2014)

Piwowarczyk LBishop HYusuf A, Mudymba F, Raj AJ Nerv Ment Dis. 


Specific Trauma Subtypes Improve the Predictive Validity of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire in Iraqi Refugees. (2014)

Arnetz BB, Broadbridge CL, Jamil HLumley MAPole N, Barkho E, Fakhouri M, Talia YR, Arnetz JE. J Immigr Minor Health. 


Prevalence and Treatment of Latent Tuberculosis Infection Among Newly Arrived Refugees in San Diego County, January 2010-October 2012. (2014)

Bennett RJ, Brodine S, Waalen J, Moser K, Rodwell TC. Am J Public Health. 

Combined Use of Inactivated and Oral Poliovirus Vaccines in Refugee Camps and Surrounding Communities - Kenya, December 2013.  (2014) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR.


Trends in Tuberculosis - United States, 2013. (2014) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR


View more literature >

Upcoming Events & Trainings 


African Refugees and Immigrants: Pathways to Security, Integration and Empowerment

April 30-May 3, 2014, Arlington, Virginia


North American Refugee Health Conference
June 19-21, 2014, Rochester, NY


The National Migration Conference
July 7-10, 2014, Washington, DC


Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery Certificate Program 
On-site learning: November 9-21, 2014, Orvieto, Italy
Web-based learning: December 2014-May 2015


View more events and trainings > 

Funding Opportunities  


Understanding and Promoting Health Literacy

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Due May 7, 2016The goal of this program announcement is to encourage methodological, intervention and dissemination research for understanding and promoting health literacy. 


Research to Characterize and Reduce Stigma to Improve Health

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Due September 7, 2016Encourages research grant applications to characterize the role of stigma in health, life course development, and aging, both in the U.S. and globally, and to test interventions to prevent or reduce the impact of stigma at the individual, community, health care system, and policy levels. 


Health Promotion Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Males

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Due September 7, 2016. Seeks applications to stimulate and expand research in the health of minority men to enhance understanding of the numerous factors (e.g., sociodemographic, community, societal, personal).

Behavioral Interventions to Address Multiple Chronic Health Conditions in Primary Care

U.S. National Institutes of Health

Due May 7, 2017Seeks Research Project Grant applications that propose to use a common conceptual model to develop behavioral interventions to modify health behaviors and improve health outcomes in patients with comorbid chronic diseases and health conditions. 



RHTAC is a project of the Division of Global Populations and Infectious Disease Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Our collaborators include the Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience at Children's Hospital Boston, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, the Cultural Orientation Resource Center at the Center for Applied Linguistics, and JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. The information contained in RHTAC newsletters does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of RHTAC's partner agencies or funders.


For more information, please email [email protected].

join mailing list
Follow us on Twitter


Refugee Women's Health Videos

U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement


Strengthening the Congolese Community: Background, Resettlement, and Treatment Archived Webinar

Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services


Congolese Annotated Bibliography

Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services

Tuberculosis Self-Study Modules

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 


Strategies in Placing Refugee Medical Cases Webinar

Association of Refugee Health Coordinators



Webinar Archive   


Free CME/CEC available!    

Tools and Strategies for Refugee Mental Health Screening: Introducing the RHS-15 

Presenter: Michael Hollifield, M.D.


Newsletter Archive

Missed a newsletter?  

Catch up by visiting the archive!



Community Dialogue
Want to learn and share with your colleagues?

Submit a Posting!

You can submit a posting to be considered for publication on RHTAC Refugee Health Updates or newsletter by emailing

[email protected]. Include a title, brief description, source or associated website, and suggested post-by date.