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Yale Health Education and Literacy for Asylees and Refugees (Y-HEALAR)

Yale Health Education and Literacy for Asylees and Refugees (Y-HEALAR) is a collaboration between Yale healthcare providers and trainees and local organizations that strives to improve health education among New Haven refugee and asylee populations. Y-HEALAR is made up of resident physicians and dentists, nurses, and students of medicine, nursing, and public health. We work in partnership with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) and Elena’s Light to accomplish two aims:

  • Improve health literacy among refugees and asylees to empower this population in managing their health in their new geographic, linguistic, and social context
  • Create opportunities for healthcare providers to learn about the particular health needs of refugees and asylees and to serve this population


Y-HEALAR was started in 2016 by a group of Pediatrics Residents at Yale with the mission of providing health literacy education to refugee families in New Haven. Residents had been seeing patients in their Pediatric Refugee Clinic, where they monitor development, get patients on a catch-up vaccine schedule, and provide anticipatory guidance, but they realized they had more to share than could be covered in a short clinic visit. So the group of residents worked with IRIS to establish Y-HEALAR.

IRIS is New Haven’s local refugee resettlement agency. The organization has welcomed more than 5000 refugees to CT since its founding in 1982, and, in recent years has resettled 200-500 refugees each year. Most recently, resettled refugees have been from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Congo.


We have been able to share our experience with others at national and international conferences, including the AAP, Eastern Society for Pediatric Research, and the North American Refugee Health conferences. We assess the effectiveness of each class as well as participant satisfaction with pre- and post-class content assessments, and have been able to incorporate this data into our research. Investigations are also ongoing into assessing the vaccination status of children in the New Haven refugee population and qualitatively assessing the effectiveness of our classes.

Y-HEALAR Classes

Y-HEALAR works with IRIS to identify health topics of interest to the refugee families they serve. Y-HEALAR volunteers then work with faculty experts at the Yale School of Medicine and Yale School of Public Health to design curricula for these topics. We offer classes on a monthly basis in New Haven. Y-HEALAR volunteers teach 2-hour long class with help from in-person interpreters in Arabic, Pashto, and Swahili.

So far, we have held classes on:

  • Adult health systems navigation
  • Pediatric health systems navigation
  • Psychological Wellness
  • Adult nutrition, obesity, and cardiovascular health
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking cessation
  • Breastfeeding
  • Car seats
  • Child nutrition and physical activity
  • Child oral health
  • Child safety
  • Parenting

Leadership Team

  • Communications Coordinator

    Assistant Professor; Yale Pediatrics Residency Advocacy Curriculum and Track Director, Pediatrics; Deputy Director of Clinical Pathways, Pediatrics

    Dr. O'Malley is a pediatrician in the Department of Pediatric Hospital Medicine. She works both at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital and Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Her primary interests include advocacy and refugee and immigrant health. She is the co-founder of the Pediatric Resident Advocacy curriculum, Flourishing Families, with Dr. Molly Markowitz and is the current co-director of the Advocacy Track.
  • Faculty Advisor

    Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine; Affiliated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health; Director, Global Health Education; Section of Global Health & International Emergency Medicine

    Dr. Agrawal is an Emergency Medicine and Global Health specialist with a specific focus on refugees and other displaced populations. Her research focuses on the use of various field methodologies to study issues specific to forced migration and implement sustainable interventions to affect the challenges these populations face. In collaboration with international, national, and local community partners, she is currently conducting several projects that aim to better understand the physical and mental health impact of displacement on resettled populations in the US, create more effective programs to assist in the resettlement process by assessing health literacy, healthcare and insurance access, and long term health outcomes for refugees resettled in the US. Currently Dr. Agrawal holds a variety of leadership roles. She was recently elected president of the Academy for Women in Academic Emergency Medicine, where she has served as chair of the Global Health Committee and as Treasurer. In 2018 she received the AWAEM Momentum Award in recognition of her extraordinary services in moving the mission and values of AWAEM forward. As a board member of the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) of New Haven, she has developed a community-based research program designed to improve the linkage between refugees in the New Haven community and health and social services.  Dr. Agrawal is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Global Health Education in the Yale University Department of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Agrawal is a graduate of Cornell University, received her MD from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and completed her emergency medicine residency at the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency at Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General Hospitals. Dr. Agrawal is a graduate of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Global Health and International Emergency Medicine Fellowship and received her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Agrawal holds faculty appointments in the Yale University School of Medicine, the Yale Center for Asylum Medicine, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
  • Faculty Advisor

    Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics; Affilicated Faculty, Yale Institute for Global Health

    At the Pediatric Primary Care Center, Camille Brown, MD provides health care for children from birth to teen years and teaches pediatric residents. Dr. Brown also direct the Yale Pediatric Refugee Clinic, caring for children from various nations whose families have resettled in the city. She performs an initial health assessment, sees them frequently during their first year, and creates a medical home for them in the PCC. She interacts with a dedicated team of nurses, social workers, case managers and other staff. Dr. Brown loves being a pediatrician because she can create relationships with patients, and their families, and follow them as they grow and develop.