Health Equity for Afghan Refugees (HEAR): Generating and Using Evidence to Align MultiSector Organizations with the Priorities of Afghan Refugees

Support for this work was provided by the AIR Equity Initiative

In August 2021, more than 75,000 Afghan refugees were evacuated to the United States during the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Supporting refugees and migrants can be challenging even with advanced planning. In this case, federal, state, and county government agencies, resettlement organizations, and community organizations worked on short notice to address the needs of Afghan refugees. Given the scale of resettlement, strong organizational collaboration and aligned efforts are needed across the many organizations facilitating and supporting resettlement.

Read our issue brief to learn more about how AIR worked to build sustainable partnerships in resettlement efforts to advance health and well-being for Afghan refugee communities.

Backed by the AIR Equity Initiative, the Health Equity for Afghan Refugees (HEAR) project conducted qualitative research to understand the resettlement landscape, the experiences of Afghan refugees, and the perspectives of organizations supporting them. 

Applying insights from this research, the project team designed and convened the HEAR Learning Network—a learning community of 11 resettlement agencies, community organizations, and health care providers that are supporting Afghan refugees as they resettle and integrate in Maryland and Virginia. 

Read our Q&A with Trenita Childers and Maliha Ali, who share early insights from the project.

Throughout the HEAR project, we worked with Church World Service (CWS) and the Muslim Community Center Medical Clinic (MCC-Medical Clinic) to help multisector organizations collaborate more effectively and advance health equity for Afghan refugees.

Resources to Improve Resettlement Efforts and Advance Health Equity for Refugees

Stories of Refugee Resettlement

To learn about refugees’ resettlement experiences over time, we conducted a modified ethnography study that recorded over 18 months of the lived experience of eight Afghan refugees as they resettled into the U.S. 

Refugee snapshot

This study provided insight into how refugees’ needs change at different stages of the resettlement process, as well as an understanding of the array of needs, such as health care, social services, employment, and community integration.

These infographics—along with accompanying narratives—illustrate the resettlement and integration experiences of four Afghan refugees. These stories are paired with policy and program implications, highlighting their direct impact on an individual’s resettlement experience.

Opportunities and Strategic Recommendations to Support Collaboration in Refugee Resettlement Efforts

Resettlement involves many system representatives whose efforts influence the well-being of refugee communities. We developed these strategic recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers that interact with or shape services for refugees at different phases of resettlement and integration. The strategic recommendations, and an additional resource specifically for policymakers, provide guidance to amplify the impact of collective action across organizations that are serving refugees, in health care, social services, workforce development, and legal services. 

These recommendations focus on four collaboration challenges, specifically: insufficient funding to support long-term collaborative partnerships; systemic barriers to collaboration; limitations in organization capacity and resources; and barriers to partnership implementation.

Actionable Guidance for Collaboration in Resettlement Efforts

The HEAR Learning Network members co-developed actionable guidance to enable network members and similar organizations to align their efforts to support refugee resettlement and integration with the priorities of refugees. This guidance includes:

  • A tip sheet of promising practices for organizations collaborating in resettlement efforts; 
  • A resource inventory to use when identifying local (i.e., Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.) resources and services to form future partnerships; and
  • FAQs for funding considerations for collaborating in resettlement efforts.