Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Rashoka F, Kelley M, Garcia M. Serving refugees in a pandemic: insights from Yazidis in the Midwest. Harvard Public Health Review. 2021; 31. 27.


There is a critical need for research to examine factors that hinder or facilitate access to healthcare in the context of COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated barriers to healthcare for marginalized communities globally, leaving many without access to needed health services. Resettled refugees, in particular, must grapple with added challenges to locating and obtaining culturally appropriate healthcare services.

Recent focus groups shed light on the experiences of Yazidi refugees in the U.S. Midwest during COVID-19. Yazidis are a historically persecuted religious and ethnic minority group from northern Iraq (Kizilhan, 2017). Many Yazidis migrated to the U.S. on Special Immigrant Visas after providing interpretation services for the U.S. Army. Focus groups reflected diverse perspectives from health care providers, social workers, Yazidi community members, and cultural centers. Findings reveal four critical areas that limit access to healthcare: (1) language barriers; (2) economic barriers; (3) social barriers; and (4) cultural stigma. In this commentary, we explore how these barriers contribute to adverse health experiences and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and offer insights relevant to public health practice with marginalized communities.