Screening for emotional distress in newly arrived refugees is not a standard practice due to multiple barriers, one being the absence of a valid screening instrument for multiple refugee populations. The Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15) was empirically developed to be a valid, efficient and effective screener for common mental disorders in refugees.
Development followed published methods. Two hundred fifty-one refugees from three countries were screened at their public health visit with a pilot instrument, and 190 were administered diagnostic proxy instruments (DPs). Data analyses using multiple methods selected the best items for classification on DPs. Follow-up clinical service data were obtained.
Post hoc analyses of the developed RHS-15 showed good sensitivity(range .81 to .95) and specificity (range .86 to .89) to DP's in two of three ethnic groups. Seventy-four percent of positive cases accepted treatment services. Of those, 79% engaged in treatment, and 92% continued treatment more than 3 months.
The RHS-15 is a screener for common mental disorders in newly-arrived refugees in public health. The RHS-15appears to be effective, but further prospective research in a broad range of refugee groups is required to establish generalizability. Strengths, limitations, methods to apply the RHS-15 for optimal performance, and future directions for research and implementation are discussed.