The Research Findings Document Food and Housing Insecurity, Lack of Adequate Health Care, and the Major Impact of Prior Violence and Current Stigma & Discrimination on their Mental and Physical Healths

NYUCN Study Highlights “The Health and Well-Being of Colombian Refugees” in Quito, Ecuador
Michele Shedlin, PhD

The Research Findings Document Food and Housing Insecurity, Lack of Adequate Health Care, and the Major Impact of Prior Violence and Current Stigma & Discrimination on their Mental and Physical Healths

New York University College of Nursing’s Professor Michele Shedlin, PhD, recently completed an NIH study, “The Health and Well-Being of Colombian Refugees in Ecuador,” which addressed the need for a more complete understanding of the migration process and the vulnerabilities of recent refugees from the Colombian drug wars now living in Ecuador.  Funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the study’s goals reflected the urgent need for research on specific health risks of populations in transition and how the nature and extent of change in their lives and environment affect their health and well-being.

The study’s objectives included: identifying the socio-demographic characteristics and migratory trajectories of recent Colombian refugees in Ecuador; examining the complex factors that influence drug use and risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections; identifying prevention and care resources utilized by the Columbian refugee community; and to develop institutional capacity to conduct immigrant health research in Ecuador, focusing on drug use and STI/HIV risk, especially in the NGO sector.

“The goals of this study also reflected a response to the need for capacity building in immigrant and refugee health research internationally, and in Ecuador, specifically, especially by local non-governmental organizations who are the most able to reach this population with effective interventions,” said Shedlin.  “The findings are being used to inform local and national agencies serving this population and future studies essential in the development of more effective prevention and control programs for immigrant and refugee populations,” she said.

Some of the specific areas the study explored were: commonalties and differences of perspectives and experiences of migration and refugee/immigrant status with a focus upon gender issues and health risk factors; survival insecurities including food and housing; perceptions of stigma and discrimination; dominant beliefs about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among the immigrants themselves; knowledge of drugs, drug use and perceptions of how drug use (distinguished from production and trafficking) affect health and lives; Ecuadorian media content pertaining to the refugee issue, and health protective/preventive activities at the individual and community levels.

Shedlin’s Ecuadorian study was informed by her research strategies and instruments effectively employed in prior NIH studies in Nicaragua and among new Hispanic immigrant communities in New York City.

On January 31, 2012, at formal event for the dissemination of study results and materials developed in Quito, Ecuador, Shedlin presented a brief discussion and explanation of the qualitative approach to the study for all the participating health and refugee agencies, university students and faculty, international agencies and ministries.  She formally thanked Fundacion Salud, Ambiente y Desarrollo ( FUNSAD),the implementing agency in-country) and the Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados y Migrantes (the main collaborating agency) and FUNSAD’s Drs. Hugo Noboa and Oscar Betancourt, the key investigators in-country.

“The spirit of collaboration, professionalism and commitment working with these colleagues was impressive and gratifying,” said Shedlin.  “There is much interest in building upon this study, especially in further research on stigma, substance abuse prevention, and among adolescents and house wives as well as populations at higher risk for HIV and other conditions.”

About Michele G. Shedlin, PhD, Professor, NYU College of Nursing:  Shedlin formerly held the Charles H. and Shirley T. Leavell Endowed Chair in Nursing & Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso where she was also Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology and Co-Director, of the NIH Hispanic Health Disparities Research Center. A medical anthropologist with extensive experience in reproductive health, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS research internationally and in the U..S., she has designed and implemented behavioral studies and qualitative research training at the community, university and national levels, to inform and evaluate prevention and care.

Shedlin has recently finished another NIH-funded study on , ARV adherence among US-Mexico border populations, and continues to develop research on acculturation and the health vulnerabilities of new immigrant groups. She maintains adjunct faculty appointments at Columbia University, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Connecticut. She serves on a number of NIH study sections, and is a reviewer for various public health journals. Her recent papers and publications report results of research on the cultural factors influencing reproductive health, health disparities and immigrant health..

About NYU College of Nursing:  NYUCN is a global leader in nursing education, research, and practice. It offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; Master of Arts and Post-Master’s Certificate Programs; a Doctor of Philosophy in Research Theory and Development, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.  For more information, visit

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