An understanding of the health conditions affecting pediatric refugees is essential to providing responsible health care for them when they arrive in the United States.
To assess the health status of pediatric refugees in an area of increased refugee resettlement.
Retrospective medical records review.
Ambulatory clinic at Maine Medical Center in Portland, a community and referral hospital.
One hundred thirty-two refugees and immigrants aged 2 months through 18 years who had initial health care evaluations during 1994 and 1995.
Sixty-six patients arrived from Africa, 22 from the former Yugoslavia, and the remainder from the former Soviet Union, Middle Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. The mean age of the patients was 10 years; 56 (42.4%) were female. The overall health status of most of the children was good, with most having appropriate weight and height for age. Dental caries and dermatologic conditions were the most prevalent findings on physical examination. Two patients had evidence of traumatic injuries. The results of tuberculin (Mantoux) tests were positive (≥10 mm) in 45 (35.2%) of 128 children for whom results were noted, hepatitis B surface antigen was detected in 5 (4.0%) of 124 children, and hepatitis B surface antibody was detected in 26 (21.1%) of 123 children. Five (16.7%) of 30 children younger than 6 years had elevated blood lead levels; anemia was detected in 25 (19.7%) of 127 children with hematocrit results available. Stool specimens were obtained from 87 patients, of whom 38 (43.7%) had pathogenic parasites in at least 1 specimen.
Pediatric refugees arrive in the United States with a variety of conditions that may be unfamiliar to practitioners trained in this country. The results of this study support the screening of refugees from Africa and other regions for tuberculosis, stool parasites, and hepatitis B.