Refugees in the United States, specifically the Rohingya, have emigrated from areas with large health disparities. Because of the government-authorized ethnic cleansing, the Rohingya have been fleeing to nearby countries for safety and survival. In the last 4 years, over 1,000 Rohingya families have resettled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Considering the impact of the trauma and disparities experienced by the Rohingya, we sought to identify the health needs and perceptions of the Rohingya community in Milwaukee. This project consisted of 10 in-depth key informant interviews with community health workers and stakeholders from voluntary refugee resettlement agencies, healthcare clinics, and community-based organizations that serve the Rohingya community. The interviews included questions related to the definition and understanding of health, challenges in achieving a healthy community, perception of healthcare institutions, available health resources, and knowledge about cancer. All interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed to identify themes. The following themes were identified: 1) health is defined as being able to meet basic needs (i.e., financial stability, housing, safety, well-being) of the family/community and is prioritized over individual concerns; 2) prior and existing mistrust for healthcare institutions and fear of systems of authority (i.e., workplace, government) impact healthcare-seeking behavior; 3) past trauma is common and negatively impacts physical and mental health; 4) religion and spirituality influence beliefs about illness, recovery and wellbeing; 5) linguistic, cultural, and educational barriers impact healthcare access and quality, as well as an understanding of disease leading to fatalistic attitudes. These findings provide insight into the assets and barriers associated with the health needs and beliefs of the Rohingya community in Milwaukee. Barriers including historical trauma leading to mistrust, limited knowledge and understanding of prevention and early detection of cancer and other diseases, and low access to linguistically and culturally tailored health resources must be addressed. Additionally, collectivism, religious devotion, and spirituality should be acknowledged as important sources of support and connection. These can potentially be leveraged to promote health and self-care. While the voices of stakeholders are valuable, understanding more about the beliefs and experiences of community members themselves is critical. These findings will inform our next steps, which include focus groups and interviews with Rohingya members to gain their perspectives. We will then partner with stakeholders and community members to co-design and evaluate a health promotion intervention tailored to the needs of the community. These efforts will be grounded in a model that leverages community strengths to implement sustainable interventions that can build trust, improve health outcomes, and support the efforts of our Rohingya neighbors.

Citation Format: Shabi Haider, Aniya Maheen, Moiz Ansari, Kathleen Jensik, Melinda Stolley. Understanding the perception of health and cancer in the Rohingya community [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Virtual Conference: Thirteenth AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; 2020 Oct 2-4. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2020;29(12 Suppl):Abstract nr PO-043.