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Abstract

While the global number of resettled refugees rises annually, the summaries of research on refugee health needs in countries of asylum remain sparse. We conducted a systematic review of published research on refugee health in Canada in order to: (i) identify studies addressing health outcomes among refugees recently resettled in Canada; (ii) identify general trends in health research conducted in Canada among refugee populations; (iii) identify significant gaps in current knowledge of health-related issues among refugees recently resettled in Canada; (iv) evaluate the quality and consistency of available information; (v) develop a summary of available research results; and (vi) identify priorities for future research. A search of several major citation indices resulted in the analysis of 196 research reports after reviewing more than 5,000 articles. This review is timely, systematic and inclusive; furthermore, potential biases in methodology are clearly assessed. The results indicate an immediate need to address specific gaps in health knowledge for refugee populations and lead us to draw five primary conclusions. First, mental health outcomes dominate the research landscape. Second, cross-sectional studies are most commonly the study design of choice. Third, studies examining some aspect of health among refugees from Asia dominate the literature. Fourth, there is a notable lack of information on cardiovascular diseases and its antecedents. Fifth, indications show that screenings for pre-existing conditions are biased towards communicable diseases. These findings have implications for health monitoring, evaluation and policy affecting the health of refugees resettled in Canada and elsewhere.