The Philadelphia Refugee Health Collaborative Model

In the past, local resettlement agencies struggled to find medical providers with the cultural competence and knowledge of refugee health needed to provide high quality screenings and follow-up care to refugees. In the absence of partnerships with medical providers, resettlement agencies employed an ad-hoc system of referring newly arrived refugees to private physicians accepting Medicaid and to local public health centers. However, local public health centers are so overburdened that it can take months to secure a screening appointment.

In September 2007, Nationalities Service Center and Thomas Jefferson University’s Department of Family & Community Medicine piloted a new refugee clinic model involving a close partnership between a resettlement agency and medical provider. Since then, resettlement agencies and medical providers have replicated and adapted the Jefferson/NSC clinic model to establish five additional refugee health clinics. The success of the clinic partnerships depends upon carefully coordinated systems between the resettlement agency and the provider to remove language, cultural and other barriers to timely access to comprehensive health services.

The key components of the Philadelphia refugee clinic model are:
  • A medical provider hosts a regular weekly/bi-monthly clinic for refugees
  • The refugee clinic is a closely coordinated partnership between the resettlement agency and medical provider, including:
    • Day-to-day communication and regular staff meetings to troubleshoot problems
    • A designated staff member from the resettlement agency functions as the “Clinic Liaison” providing on-site assistance to help new refugee patients with registration, scheduling follow-up appointments, and filling prescriptions
  • The refugee clinic is housed in a health system providing access to a large network of specialty practices
  • The refugee clinic provides opportunities for residents to train in global health and cultural competency
  • The refugee clinic provides comprehensive screening, immediate attention to chronic/acute needs and a long-term medical home

The PRHC network now includes two family practices, one adult medicine clinic, two pediatric practices and a women’s health clinic.  PRHC also works closely with the Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative to address adjustment and mental health needs among refugees. 

The Collaborative Project

Since 2010, resettlement agencies and medical providers have come together to work collaboratively on shared challenges and objectives. With support from The Barra Foundation, PRHC is working to develop an integrated citywide system of care that ensures high quality health services for all newly arrived refugees.

Strategic Plan

Although the collaborative has come a long way, there is still much to be done in creating an equitable and sustainable health system for Refugees in Philadelphia. PRHC has adapted a strategic plan, formulated as a blueprint for the collaborative’s goals, in order to guide the collaborative until 2020.

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2005: No defined medical path for refugees 2012: Strong resettlement agency – medical provider partnerships Current: Coordinated collaboration
Organizational Chart May 2016