Schools have critical role to play in supporting adolescents fleeing armed conflict

October 24, 2019

October 24, 2019 -- Communities in high income countries around the world continue to receive record-setting numbers of newcomers fleeing armed conflict. Although education is known to be highly important for refugee and migrant children, relatively little is known about the diversity of associated school-based programs and their likely value in supporting the mental health and psychosocial well-being of the children living in high income countries. A scoping review co-authored by Michael Wessells, PhD, Mailman School professor in Population and Family Health's Program on Forced Migration and Health, reviewed 20 school-based programs aimed at improving the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of adolescent forced migrants in high-income countries from 2000 to 2019. Wessells and colleagues found school-based interventions have great potential for preventing adverse mental health outcomes among girls and boys affected by armed conflict and displacement.

The findings are published online in Social Science & Medicine.

"Our review showed that despite recurring challenges, many girls and boys manage to adjust to their new lives," noted Wessells. "Up to now, there was little discussion in the literature on how school-based programs for refugees and immigrants actually achieve holistic support for refugee and migrant children and how they enable educators, children, and families to navigate the social and cultural complexities associated with children's and families' movement to high income countries."

The review was conducted to provide a more comprehensive picture of current school-based approaches to improve the health and wellbeing of adolescent forced migrants.

Among the findings:"These programs showcase the abilities of schools to identify and monitor student needs, provide or connect with holistic supports for refugee and migrant adolescents, and contribute to continuity of care," said Wessells, who noted that partnerships were central to most elements of the programs reviewed.
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Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Founded in 1922, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world. The Columbia Mailman School is the third largest recipient of NIH grants among schools of public health. Its over 450 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as preventing infectious and chronic diseases, environmental health, maternal and child health, health policy, climate change & health, and public health preparedness. It is a leader in public health education with over 1,300 graduate students from more than 40 nations pursuing a variety of master's and doctoral degree programs. The Columbia Mailman School is also home to numerous world-renowned research centers, including ICAP and the Center for Infection and Immunity. For more information, please visit http://www.mailman.columbia.edu.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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