Research ethics and refugee health: a review of reported considerations and applications in published refugee health literature, 2015-2018

Research ethics and refugee health: a review of reported considerations and applications in published refugee health literature, 2015-2018
Research
Emma E. Seagle, Amanda J. Dam, Priti P. Shah, Jessica L. Webster, Drue H. Barrett, Leonard W. Ortmann, Nicole J. Cohen,  Nina N. Marano
BMC Conflict and Health, 20 June 2020; 14(39)
Open Access
Abstract
Introduction
Public health investigations, including research, in refugee populations are necessary to inform evidence-based interventions and care. The unique challenges refugees face (displacement, limited political protections, economic hardship) can make them especially vulnerable to harm, burden, or undue influence. Acute survival needs, fear of stigma or persecution, and history of trauma may present challenges to ensuring meaningful informed consent and establishing trust. We examined the recently published literature to understand the application of ethics principles in investigations involving refugees.
Methods
We conducted a preliminary review of refugee health literature (research and non-research data collections) published from 2015 through 2018 available in PubMed. Article inclusion criteria were: participants were refugees, topic was health-related, and methods used primary data collection. Information regarding type of investigation, methods, and reported ethics considerations was abstracted.
Results
We examined 288 articles. Results indicated 33% of investigations were conducted before resettlement, during the displacement period (68% of these were in refugee camps). Common topics included mental health (48%) and healthcare access (8%). The majority (87%) of investigations obtained consent. Incentives were provided less frequently (23%). Most authors discussed the ways in which community stakeholders were engaged (91%), yet few noted whether refugee representatives had an opportunity to review investigational protocols (8%). Cultural considerations were generally limited to gender and religious norms, and 13% mentioned providing some form of post-investigation support.
Conclusions
Our analysis is a preliminary assessment of the application of ethics principles reported within the recently published refugee health literature. From this analysis, we have proposed a list of best practices, which include stakeholder engagement, respect for cultural norms, and post-study support. Investigations conducted among refugees require additional diligence to ensure respect for and welfare of the participants. Development of a refugee-specific ethics framework with ethics and refugee health experts that addresses the need for stakeholder involvement, appropriate incentive use, protocol review, and considerations of cultural practices may help guide future investigations in this population.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s