BMJ Case Reports 2017; doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-219674
  • Global health

A Rohingya refugee’s journey in Australia and the barriers to accessing healthcare

  1. Maneeta Uppal1
  1. 1 Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Herston, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 Cairns Hospital, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Manasi Jiwrajka, manasi.jiwrajka{at}
  • Accepted 19 April 2017
  • Published 9 May 2017


Australia’s processing of some asylum seekers on offshore detention centres has recently been brought to light by human rights organisation. While the internal politics of resettling refugees may be complex, Australia remains in the top five countries for resettlement per capita. However, these refugees remain a vulnerable patient population after immigrating. Refugee women, an understudied group, in particular experience higher adverse health outcomes.

In this case report, we follow the medical journey of KB, a 38-year-old Rohingya refugee diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus—the crux of all her health issues. We explore language differences as a barrier to healthcare and its near-fatal consequences, as well as communication breakdown in the context of the misalignment of health goals between the patient and the profession. As such, improving patient health literacy and cultural competency among doctors are core interventions in improving the delivery of refugee healthcare.

We have a global responsibility to improve health literacy among refugee patients and by providing the basic standard of healthcare to every individual as a human right, which empower refugees in this regard to have a role in their health outcomes.


  • Contributors MJ initiated the project by finding the patient and obtaining consent from the patient at the beginning of the case report. MJ also developed a first draft/outline of the project and oversaw the project with editing and redrafting. AM attended the sessions with the patient in consult with the doctors and was primarily responsible in researching refugee health in Australia. MU transcribed the notes from the interviews into a second draft and assisted in several edits and referencing of the document.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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