Context Refugees experience multiple traumatic events and have significant associated
health problems, but data about refugee trauma and health status are often
conflicting and difficult to interpret.
Objectives To assess the characteristics of the literature on refugee trauma and
health, to identify and evaluate instruments used to measure refugee trauma
and health status, and to recommend improvements.
Data Sources MEDLINE, PsychInfo, Health and PsychoSocial Instruments, CINAHL, and
Cochrane Systematic Reviews (searched through OVID from the inception of each
database to October 2001), and the New Mexico Refugee Project database.
Study Selection Key terms and combination operators were applied to identify English-language
publications evaluating measurement of refugee trauma and/or health status.
Data Extraction Information extracted for each article included author; year of publication;
primary focus; type (empirical, review, or descriptive); and type/name and
properties of instrument(s) included. Articles were excluded from further
analyses if they were review or descriptive, were not primarily about refugee
health status or trauma, or were only about infectious diseases. Instruments
were then evaluated according to 5 criteria (purpose, construct definition,
design, developmental process, reliability and validity) as described in the
Data Synthesis Of 394 publications identified, 183 were included for further analyses
of their characteristics; 91 (49.7%) included quantitative data but did not
evaluate measurement properties of instruments used in refugee research, 78
(42.6%) reported on statistical relationships between measures (presuming
validity), and 14 (7.7%) were only about statistical properties of instruments.
In these 183 publications, 125 different instruments were used; of these,
12 were developed in refugee research. None of these instruments fully met
all 5 evaluation criteria, 3 met 4 criteria, and 5 met only 1 of the criteria.
Another 8 standard instruments were designed and developed in nonrefugee populations
but adapted for use in refugee research; of these, 2 met all 5 criteria and
6 met 4 criteria.
Conclusions The majority of articles about refugee trauma or health are either descriptive
or include quantitative data from instruments that have limited or untested
validity and reliability in refugees. Primary limitations to accurate measurement
in refugee research are the lack of theoretical bases to instruments and inattention
to using and reporting sound measurement principles.