Afghan Health Coalition
Grantee: Afghan Health Initiative
Timeframe: July 2023 – June 2024 | Amount: $145,000
For the last four decades, Afghanistan has maintained one of the highest global rates of both infant and maternal mortality rates. As a result of the Taliban seizing control of the country, since August 2021, approximately 4,000 Afghan refugees have arrived in Seattle/King County and these rates are expected to increase considering Washington is among the top 5 resettlement states for Afghan refugees. As a result of their active service provision to the Afghan refugee community, Afghan Health Initiative (AHI) is engaged in partnerships across the county to address the needs of the communities they serve. In April 2022, the leadership of AHI, convened with medical providers and clinic administrators at the top three refugee-serving birthing hospitals who reported a stark increase in Afghan women refusing to seek prenatal services.
Research shows that the United States (US) fares the worst in regards to birth outcomes including maternal mortality, preterm birth and low birthweight relative to all other industrialized nations. Moreover, there are consistent and stark racialized disparities in preterm births and low birthweight in the US. Importantly, approximately 1 in 4 (23%) of all births in 2018 were to foreign-born women and emerging evidence has documented worse birth outcomes among immigrant women compared to non-Hispanic White women.
Though research is incredibly important in ensuring that health disparities are documented and shared throughout the community and to public health officials, AHI acknowledges that it is just the first step of many required to increase the overall public health of the Afghan community. To expand on this work, PHPDA is supporting AHI’s Afghan Health Coalition project.
AHI has a strong voice in advocacy and in helping to influence change in systems and with partners, however, AHI acknowledges that this work is not enough. The Afghan community came here under extraordinary conditions and as such, need extraordinary intervention to help guide their health in a way that would be most effective as an inter-disciplinary and partnership-based approach with the varying systems and clinics that support them. Under the first proposed health issue, pre-natal care, AHI has advocated for what they have seen and heard in the community through meeting with healthcare partners, and have begun educating the community. However, the root of the issue lies with the healthcare system itself. This can only be addressed if the healthcare system is onboard with listening, adapting, and co-creating solutions that will increase the health and wellness of the communities they serve.
Under this project proposed by AHI, the Afghan Health Coalition will initially focus on barriers to prenatal care. However, AHI envisions that over time, the Afghan Health Coalition will continue to address other health outcomes and access, address health disparities including addressing systemic, structural, and institutional racism in healthcare, and ensuring access to equitable health resources and services. Due to the pressing issue of pre-natal care urgently occurring right now, AHI believe it is appropriate to begin here.
This will convene Afghan community leaders, community members, public health professionals, researchers, and healthcare service providers and administrators to address the lack of culturally appropriate healthcare that is driving hundreds of pregnant newly arrived Afghan refugees away from receiving prenatal care and healthcare services.
AHI will hire a full-time staff individual who will serve as the Program Manager and will serve as the spokesperson to convene, coordinate meetings, and invite the existing and new partners to work collaboratively as a member of this coalition. Other fund usage will include meeting fees, and funding to support listening sessions and focus groups to engage with community members experiencing the barriers and health issues first-hand.
As part of this coalition, the primary goal will be to address the barriers and facilitators to accessing prenatal care among Afghan refugee women identified by the research. The coalition will co-identify tangible solutions to access barriers that prevent the utilization of medical and prenatal services including transportation access, advocacy for culturally appropriate medical care, and in-community education, and more. Thus far, the community has identified one major barrier due to religious and cultural nuances that would best be address through community education and the engagement of religious and cultural leaders to share and educate as a trusted messenger in the community. The coalition led by AHI will also seek partnerships and collaboration with medical institutions and other providers who serve pregnant Afghan individuals.
ABOUT OUR GRANTEE
AHI’s mission is to serve the Afghan immigrant and refugee population in Washington State by promoting community-based public health interventions which target social determinants of health thereby increasing equal access to health, education, and economic independence.