Barriers to health equality for Karen refugees in regional Victoria, Australia: a scoping review.

Miss Lisa Davenport


Purpose: Refugees are vulnerable to poor health and experience barriers to accessing health services. This scoping review presents evidence on the health issues and barriers to accessing healthcare services experienced by a specific refugee community; Karen refugees.

Background: The City of Greater Bendigo (COGB) is a regional municipality in Victoria, Australia. Since 2011, the COGB has welcomed over 1000 Karen refugees through re-settlement and migration. Currently, only one local health service offers health and re-settlement services to the Karen refugee community in Bendigo. Greater awareness of the health needs of Karen refugees will enable Bendigo’s local government and non-government health and community services to target their programs effectively, enabling improved health outcomes for the Karen refugee community.

Design/methods: A scoping review was conducted to evaluate the health issues and barriers to accessing health services for Karen refugees globally, in order to provide predictors of the health needs of Karen refugees re-settling in Bendigo, Victoria.

Results: Karen refugees experience both physical and psychological health issues resulting from war, trauma and poor accessibility to local health services prior and post re-settlement. Barriers to accessing health services post re-settlement include; social, cultural, economic and political factors.

Conclusion: Karen refugees are more susceptible to poorer health outcomes. Local health and community services need to address barriers that impact access to healthcare for Karen refugees following re-settlement, to improve health outcomes. Further high quality research that contributes to the evidence base, particularly studies based in Australia and regional communities is required.


Lisa is an Occupational Therapist with 8 years of clinical experience based in regional Victoria. Lisa currently works in a community OT role for a leading public health provider in central Victoria. Lisa recently completed a Masters of International and Community Development and endeavours to combine her background in health and OT with community development to contribute to the development of health services and programs/ information that effectively target the needs of growing CALD communities in regional settings. Lisa’s presentation is the outcome of a research project she completed as part of her Master’s.

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