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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