Three days before I was born in 1964, Nelson Mandela was found guilty of sabotage against the South African National Party in the Rivonia trials. Two days after my 12th birthday, the Soweto Uprising occurred, which eventually led to the African National Congress taking a lead role in the anti-apartheid struggle.  As I have watched the memorials last week after the passing of Nelson Mandela, it is an appropriate time to look at the healthcare experience of African (and other) refugees in our state.  

The N.H. Department of Health and Human Services has an Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs, which was initially established in 1999 as the Office of Minority Health.  It has three main focus areas:

  • Provides a sustained focus on the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services to N.H.’s residents by the DHHS;
  • Maintains communication with racial, ethnic and other medically underserved populations to create partnerships to enhance the overall health of the communities by developing combined opportunities and resources to address health disparities; and
  • Collaborates and partners with federal and regional state minority health offices and N.H. health and community agencies regarding various regional, national and state health disparity initiatives.  A great example of a successful regional partnership is the bi-annual New England Regional Minority Health Conference.

The New Hampshire Refugee Program has a number of services available, including case management for health services, and preventative health services.  It is funded through the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.  Some of the health problems that refugees often deal with are mental health, oral health, transportation, and health literacy issues.  Read more in the Plan to Address Health Disparities and Promote Health Equity in New Hampshire.  

Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies issued the Health and Equity Report Card, which showed that “not everyone in the state has equal opportunities for good health, and that health outcomes vary from one minority group to another.”  While the Affordable Care Act strives to improve some of these health disparity issues, raising community and provider awareness about healthcare reform and health equity is crucial for equal health across economic, racial and geographic barriers.


Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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