PURPOSE: Few studies explore the long-term health and well-being of refugee children. A longitudinal cohort of refugee children was created to determine health and well-being outcomes over time. This article describes the methodology used to conduct this study, including sample characteristics and effectiveness of recruitment and retention strategies.
PARTICIPANTS: Newly arrived refugee children settling in a regional part of Australia aged 6 months to 15 years were recruited between 2009 and 2013 and 85% were followed for an average of 31 months.
METHOD AND DESIGN: General practitioners conducted health and pathology examinations shortly after arrival. Additional follow-up assessments were conducted by the research team at an average of 13 months after arrival for the first (year 2) and 31 months for the second (year 3) assessment. Children under 5 years had developmental and children aged 4-17 years had social-emotional screening. Families were assessed for risk and protective factors using a structured interview and the Social Readjustment Ratings Scale. Parent experience of the research was explored.
FINDINGS TO DATE: Eligibility criteria were met by 158 of 228 (69%) newly arrived children, 61 of whom (39%) were enrolled. Retention was 100% (n=61) at year 2 and 85% at year 3. The study sample was younger than and had an over-representation of African refugees as compared to the eligible population. Parents reported that the research was respectful.
FUTURE PLANS: This study demonstrates that a longitudinal cohort study in refugee children is feasible and acceptable, and retention rates can be high. The establishment of this cohort provides the opportunity to analyse valuable data about the early settlement experience, risk and protective factors and long-term health and well-being outcomes in refugee children. These are necessary to identify refugee children in need of additional support and to guide future service delivery.