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ETSU researchers aim to understand, help Palestinian refugee experience

Contributed • Oct 19, 2017 at 7:15 AM

On her first trip to the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash, Jordan, Dr. Meira Yasin noticed that many of the children there did not have winter clothes. The East Tennessee State University nursing professor listened as Palestinian mothers shared stories about their struggles just to live from day to day.

Deeply touched by the experience, Yasin returned to Johnson City and wrote a grant proposal. The university’s Research Development Committee recently funded the grant, “Quality of life, Human Insecurity, and Distress Among Palestinian Refugees in Jordan.”

The Gaza Refugee Camp has been home to more than 24,000 registered Palestinian refugees since 1967, and it has become a permanent structure in Jordan.

“While the United Nations Relief and Works Agency provides the most basic health services and some humanitarian aid, the families living in the camp still face many challenges related to their refugee status,” Yasin said. “These include poverty, overcrowding, and limited access to jobs, education, and health care.”

Through the study, funded by ETSU in the amount of $10,000, Yasin hopes to gain a better understanding of the quality of life and psychosocial factors of the Palestinian refugees in the camp. Yasin is both a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse. One of her primary interests is holistic care for vulnerable populations, like the people she met in Jordan, for the first time in 2014.

“One of the greatest needs that stood out, to me, was mental health care,” Yasin says. “People who live in the Gaza Refugee Camp have no access to mental health care at all within the camp.”

Yasin and project co-investigator Dr. Megan Quinn from ETSU’s College of Public Health have done extensive research in Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACEs. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ACEs are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance abuse disorders.

“A conversation Dr. Quinn and I were having one day about ACEs motivated the research,” Yasin says. “And we decided to partner up to investigate the needs in the Gaza Refugee Camp and how we can better address mental health in order to help the children grow up in a healthier environment in the camp.”

The research will involve the administration of the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life Measure, in Arabic, as well as the Human Insecurity and Distress Scale. Yasin and Quinn pilot-tested the scales through a series of focus groups during their preliminary research in the Gaza Refugee Camp in December of 2016.

It is their hope that the ETSU-funded research will have implications for program development and psychosocial support for the marginalized population of Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

Grants awarded by the ETSU Research Development Committee support and encourage research in the sciences and non-sciences, including the humanities and the fine and performing arts.

For more information, contact Yasin at 423-439-4513 or yasinm@etsu.edu.

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