Background: Despite an unparalleled global refugee crisis, there are almost no studies in primary care addressing real-world conditions and longer courses of treatment that are typical when resettled refugees present to their physician with critical psychosocial needs and complex symptoms. We studied the effects of a year of psychotherapy and case management in a primary care setting on common symptoms and functioning for Karen refugees (a newly arrived population in St Paul, Minnesota) with depression.
Methods: A pragmatic parallel-group randomized control trial was conducted at two primary care clinics with large resettled Karen refugee patient populations, with simple random allocation to 1 year of either: (1) intensive psychotherapy and case management (IPCM), or (2) care-as-usual (CAU). Eligibility criteria included Major Depression diagnosis determined by structured diagnostic clinical interview, Karen refugee, ages 18–65. IPCM (n = 112) received a year of psychotherapy and case management coordinated onsite between the case manager, psychotherapist, and primary care providers; CAU (n = 102) received care-as-usual from their primary care clinic, including behavioral health referrals and/or brief onsite interventions. Blinded assessors collected outcomes of mean changes in depression and anxiety symptoms (measured by Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25), PTSD symptoms (Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale), pain (internally developed 5-item Pain Scale), and social functioning (internally developed 37-item instrument standardized on refugees) at baseline, 3, 6 and 12 months.
Results: Of 214 participants, 193 completed a baseline and follow up assessment (90.2%). IPCM patients showed significant improvements in depression, PTSD, anxiety, and pain symptoms and in social functioning at all time points, with magnitude of improvement increasing over time. CAU patients did not show significant improvements. The largest mean differences observed between groups were in depression (difference, 5.5, 95% CI, 3.9 to 7.1, P < .001) and basic needs/safety (difference, 5.4, 95% CI, 3.8 to 7.0, P < .001).
Conclusions: Adult Karen refugees with depression benefited from intensive psychotherapy and case management coordinated and delivered under usual conditions in primary care. Intervention effects strengthened at each interval, suggesting robust recovery is possible.
Northwood, A.K., Vukovich, M.M., Beckman, A. et al. (2020). Intensive psychotherapy and case management for Karen refugees with major depression in primary care: a pragmatic randomized control trial. BMC Family Practice, 21(17). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12875-020-1090-9
About This Study:
Intervention(s): Intensive psychotherapy and case management (IPCM)
Intervention Duration: 1 year
Relevant ORR Program: Refugee Health Promotion, Refugee Support Services
Study Type: Impact evaluation
Full Text Availability: Free
Strength of Evidence: Moderate
Gender(s) of Participants: All
Age(s) of Participants: Adults
Region(s) of Origin of Participants: Asia - South
Relevant Evidence Summaries:
The evidence was reviewed and included in the following summaries: