Article

Reportable neurologic diseases in refugee camps in 19 countries.

Department of Neurology, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, USA.
Neurology (Impact Factor: 8.3). 08/2012; 79(9):937-40. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318266fcf1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Approximately one-third of refugees worldwide live in refugee camps. Selected neurologic diseases are actively reported in some refugee camps.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees monitors health visits in refugee camps with the assistance of more than 25 partner organizations using standardized case definitions. Neurologic diseases were selected and searched for the years 2008 to 2011. The number of health care visits for a neurologic disease was calculated and divided by the aggregated number of reporting months available for each refugee camp ("visits per camp-month").
Five neurologic diseases were reported from 127 refugee camps in 19 countries. Visits for chronic, noncommunicable diseases including epilepsy (53,941 visits in 1,426 camp-months, 48% female) and cerebrovascular disease (4,028 visits in 1,333 camp-months, 51% female) far exceeded those for neurologic infectious diseases (acute flaccid paralysis/poliomyelitis, 78 visits in 3,816 camp-months, 42% female; leprosy, 74 visits in 3,816 camp-months, 66% female; meningitis, 477 visits in 3,816 camp-months, 51% female). In 2011, these diseases accounted for 31,349 visits globally with 91% of visits for epilepsy.
Targeted programs addressing epilepsy and stroke among refugees in camps should become a priority and indicate that other chronic neurologic diseases that may be under- or misdiagnosed may also be common in refugee camps. Given that significant under-reporting is likely, our findings demonstrate the pressing need for coordinated preventive and interventional measures for epilepsy and stroke in refugee camps.

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    ABSTRACT: Background Population-based epidemiological research has established that refugees in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are at increased risk for a range of mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) problems. Improved knowledge of rates for MNS problems that are treated in refugee camp primary care settings is needed to identify service gaps and inform resource allocation. This study estimates contact coverage of MNS services in refugee camps by presenting rates of visits to camp primary care centers for treatment of MNS problems utilizing surveillance data from the Health Information System (HIS) of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.Methods Data were collected between January 2009 and March 2013 from 90 refugee camps across 15 LMIC. Visits to primary care settings were recorded for seven MNS categories: epilepsy/seizure; alcohol/substance use; mental retardation/intellectual disability; psychotic disorder; emotional disorder; medically unexplained somatic complaint; and other psychological complaint. The proportion of MNS visits attributable to each of the seven categories is presented by country, sex and age group. The data were combined with camp population data to generate rates of MNS visits per 1,000 persons per month, an estimate of contact coverage.ResultsRates of visits for MNS problems ranged widely across countries, from 0.24 per 1,000 persons per month in Zambia to 23.69 in Liberia. Rates of visits for epilepsy were higher than any of the other MNS categories in nine of fifteen countries. The largest proportion of MNS visits overall was attributable to epilepsy/seizure (46.91% male/35.13% female) and psychotic disorders (25.88% male/19.98% female). Among children under five, epilepsy/seizure (82.74% male/82.29% female) also accounted for the largest proportion of MNS visits.Conclusions Refugee health systems must be prepared to manage severe neuropsychiatric disorders in addition to mental conditions associated with stress. Relatively low rates of emotional and substance use visits in primary care, compared to high prevalence of such conditions in epidemiological studies suggest that many MNS problems remain unattended by refugee health services. Wide disparity in rates across countries warrants additional investigation into help seeking behaviors of refugees and the capacity of health systems to correctly identify and manage diverse MNS problems.
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