Refugees Act and Communicate for Health (REACH): Using Technology to Increase Health Literacy and Health Care Access for Refugees in Turkey

Lead PI: Yanis Ben Amor

Unit Affiliation: Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)

December 2020 - December 2021
Project Type: Research Outreach Education

DESCRIPTION: The REACH project aims to bridge the gap in health literacy and health care access among refugee youth living in Turkey by utilizing mobile health (mHealth) technology. Using Community Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) and implementation science methods, REACH contributes to the limited evidence base on ICT interventions for health in humanitarian crises, especially as refugees, youth, and health care systems have been hardly hit with the current COVID-19 pandemic. The second phase of the REACH project, for which we are seeking funding from ICDF, will assess the functionality and user-friendliness of the REACH mHealth app through a pilot study in Istanbul and the impact of the app through a mixed-methods intervention study in several cities with the highest refugee population in Turkey. The application, which also includes a special section on COVID-19 and related health services, will first be tested in a quantitative pilot study in Istanbul. After initial assessment of user experiences, REACH will continue to work with refugee and local youth, academia, ICT professionals, NGOs, municipalities, UN organizations, central and local governmental organizations including health and youth authorities to finalize the development stage of the application.

In parallel to the final stage of development, the project partners will finalize their plan for local ownership of the app and its financial and technical sustainability in the long term. Once the final version of the app is available for free download on the app stores, it will be disseminated widely at the national level via the support of project partners, their youth networks and centers, and other stakeholders, in addition to the project's website, brochures and social media. As soon as the communication and dissemination activities start, the next step of the REACH Project will be to assess the application's impact on young people's health literacy and access to health care with an intervention study. This study will use a mixed-methods approach and will have a pre-post design to assess changes in health related knowledge, attitudes and health care access among users of the app. In the study,
the app will be disseminated to the target population via the network of trained youth health mediators (youth peer educators or mobilizers), who will demonstrate the functionalities of the mHealth application online and/or in selected youth centers in different cities depending on the pandemic situation in Turkey. The study participants will be followed-up for a period of three months and quantitative scales will be used to quantify the impact. The study will also include focus group discussions with youth to complement the impact assessment in a qualitative manner.

Experiences with the REACH app and scientific publications related to the project will be shared with stakeholders including academia, municipalities, governmental and non-governmental organizations in Turkey as well as international/humanitarian organizations, and global health scientific community. At the end of the second phase of the project, the REACH application will be ready to be shared and adapted to the local needs of youth in other humanitarian settings around the world.