Access to preventive sexual and reproductive health care for women from refugee-like backgrounds: a systematic review

Natasha Davidson, Karin Hammarberg, Lorena Romero, Jane Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Globally, the number of forcibly displaced women is growing. Refugee and displaced women have poorer health outcomes compared to migrant and host country populations. Conflict, persecution, violence or natural disasters and under-resourced health systems in their country of origin contribute to displacement experiences of refugee and displaced women. Poor health outcomes are further exacerbated by the migration journey and challenging resettlement in host countries. Preventive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs of refugee and displaced women are poorly understood. The aim was to synthesise the evidence about access to preventive SRH care of refugee and displaced women. Methods: A systematic review of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies of women aged 18 to 64 years and health care providers' (HCPs’) perspectives on barriers to and enablers of SRH care was undertaken. The search strategy was registered with PROSPERO in advance of the search (ID CRD42020173039). The MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and Global health databases were searched for peer-reviewed publications published any date up to 30th April 2020. Three authors performed full text screening independently. Publications were reviewed and assessed for quality. Study findings were thematically extracted and reported in a narrative synthesis. Reporting of the review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses recommendations. Results: The search yielded 4083 results, of which 28 papers reporting 28 studies met inclusion criteria. Most related to contraception and cervical or breast cancer screening. Three main themes and ten subthemes relating to SRH care access were identified: interpersonal and patient encounter factors (including knowledge, awareness, perceived need for and use of preventive SRH care; language and communication barriers), health system factors (including HCPs discrimination and lack of quality health resources; financial barriers and unmet need; HCP characteristics; health system navigation) and sociocultural factors and the refugee experience (including family influence; religious and cultural factors). Conclusions: Implications for clinical practice and policy include giving women the option of seeing women HCPs, increasing the scope of practice for HCPs, ensuring adequate time is available during consultations to listen and develop refugee and displaced women’s trust and confidence, strengthening education for refugee and displaced women unfamiliar with preventive care and refining HCPs’ and interpreters’ cultural competency. More research is needed on HCPs’ views regarding care for refugee and displaced women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number403
Number of pages37
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Access
  • Health care providers
  • Refugees
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Women

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