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Thesis Provides Health Assessment of RI Immigrant Group

January 24, 2017

To inform and enhance her efforts to connect fellow African immigrants in Rhode Island with medical care, Akosua Boadiwaa Adu-Boahene '16 MPH dedicated her master’s thesis work at Brown to understanding the community’s health needs.

In 2011, with an urge to pursue a deeper education in health care, medical research assistant and phlebotomist Akosua Adu-Boahene moved to Rhode Island from Kentucky to earn a master’s degree in public health at Brown University. The move brought the young Ghana native into Providence County’s community of more than 13,000 fellow immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Before enrolling at Brown, Adu-Boahene spent more than two years working at Women & Infants Hospital. Her personal experience as a health care worker and an immigrant, combined with what she often observed among her friends and neighbors at the Empowerment Temple of the International Central Gospel Church in Pawtucket, made it apparent that for many people, the culture shock of moving from West Africa to New England included significant barriers to accessing health care. With the encouragement of her pastor, she decided to help by organizing church health ministry programs such as quarterly health fairs with screenings and educational events. She resolved to start a more permanent clinic in Pawtucket and, as a student at Brown, dedicated her thesis work to conducting a health needs assessment within the community.

A summary of those results appear this month in the Rhode Island Medical Journal. The paper provides a rare quantitative and qualitative assessment of health and health access in a sampling of Rhode Island’s large African immigrant community. That community is a diverse population that often gets errantly lumped together with U.S.-born African Americans, but a common theme in the data is that despite a prevalence of developing chronic health problems, many immigrants don’t seek, and don’t know how to seek, care.

Read more of David Orenstein's story about connecting African immigrants in Rhode Island with medical care.