For Congolese Refugees: An Introduction to Healthcare in the U.S.



Hello. My name is Dr. Johnson-Agbakwu. I am a doctor trained in women's health. I am also the Director of the Refugee Women's Health Clinic in Arizona and have met and treated many refugee patients here, including many Congolese women. I know from talking with many of you, that doctor's offices and other healthcare centers can be confusing and even intimidating places. I hope this video can help you feel more knowledgeable about the healthcare system in the United States. In the U.S., several types of healthcare providers can treat patients, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants. In this video, we just call all healthcare providers "doctor" for simplicity. Depending on your medical need, you may find help from doctors working at hospitals, offices, or healthcare centers. In the United States, primary care doctors take care of a wide variety of health problems, from acute illnesses such as infections and rashes to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and asthma. If your medical problem is complex, primary care doctors can refer you to medical specialists. Primary care doctors also do annual wellness exams, women's healthcare check-ups, and well-child care visits. These preventive care visits involve a physical exam, and can also include immunizations, lab tests, and screening for cancer. Preventive care can help to keep you from getting sick or find a problem when it is still small and can be treated easier. So, if you notice anything that concerns you, like a lump or lesions on your body, a lasting fever, a persistent cough, unexplained weight loss, or continuing body aches and pain, you should go see your primary care doctor before any of these things develop into bigger problems. Now, preventive care is more than what a doctor can do for you; it's also about what you can do for yourself to be healthy. Getting enough regular exercise and proper nutrition (eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains) are just a couple of ways to take control of your health. In the U.S., we have something called health insurance, called health insurance in English, to help pay for doctor's visits, medicine, surgeries, and other healthcare needs. Having health insurance makes it easier to go to a doctor for health care. Otherwise, visiting the doctor can cost a lot of money in the U.S. People who have health insurance make regular payments to an insurance company. These payments are called premiums in English. The insurance company pays a big part of your health care costs when you visit the doctor because you've been paying premiums to the insurance company. Some of you will have health insurance through Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA), which are paid for by the government. Medicaid is a government health insurance program that helps low-income children and their parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and older people. In some states, other low-income people can get Medicaid too. The state where you live may have a different name for Medicaid. If you are not eligible for Medicaid, you might be eligible for RMA. RMA is a lot like Medicaid, but it will only last for eight months. If you do not speak English, you should ask for an interpreter, so you can effectively communicate with the doctor. I have heard that sometimes you were not always safe visiting a clinic in your home country. I want to tell you that, here in the U.S., we want to make patients feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Maintaining your dignity and respect is as important as helping you with our medical knowledge. In honoring that respect, your doctor will want to be honest with you so you can make the choices that are best for you. The more you and your doctor get to know each other, the more your needs can be met. I encourage you to be confident when visiting a healthcare facility in the U.S. We want a trusting relationship with you. Let us help you to a more healthy and happy life.

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