AIM: Nutritional deprivation, inadequate diet and food insecurity are common refugee experiences. The growth and nutritional status of paediatric refugees following resettlement in developed countries and the related interplay with socio-economic factors remain less defined; this study aims to describe these features.
METHODS: Standardised dietary, medical and socio-demographic health assessments of new refugee patients attending a multidisciplinary paediatric Refugee Health Service (RHS) in Western Australia between 2010 and 2015 were analysed.
RESULTS: Demographic data from 1131 paediatric refugees are described (age 2 months to 17.8 years). The majority experienced socio-economic disadvantage, had limited parental education and required interpreters. Nutritional deficiencies were common but varied across ethnicities: iron deficiency (ID) (12.3%), anaemia (7.3%) and inadequate dairy intake (41.0%). A third of children (32.6%) did not consume meat. Infant breastfeeding was sustained (77.8%) in infants <12 months. Prolonged breastfeeding (44.9% aged 12-24 months) was associated with an increased risk of ID (odds ratio 4.0, 95% confidence interval 1.4-11.6). Median body mass index increased significantly for those >24 months between referral and RHS assessment (median period 1.8 months). Overall, 27.1% required additional formal dietetic follow-up, with higher nutritional concerns in refugee children <24 months compared to older patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Identification of frequent post-settlement nutritional concerns has been captured through structured multidisciplinary paediatric health screening. Specific screening for socio-economic influencing factors, including education, poverty and food insecurity, during refugee clinical assessments is recommended. Development of targeted, culturally appropriate parental education resources and interventions may improve management following resettlement. Longitudinal research assessing resettlement growth trajectories is required.