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J Immigr Minor Health. 2011 Feb;13(1):161-8. doi: 10.1007/s10903-010-9353-5.

Under- and over-nutrition among refugees in San Diego County, California.

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Department of Medicine, University of California San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0507, USA.


Resettled refugees often arrive in their host country with little knowledge of nutrition or available food choices. We explored nutrition-related issues of recent refugee arrivals to San Diego County-the second largest California resettlement site. In-depth interviews (n = 40) were conducted with refugees, health care practitioners, and refugee service organizations. Content analysis identified nutrition-related themes. Unhealthy weight gain after arrival was the most common concern and was attributed to social pressures among adolescents, food choices and a more sedentary lifestyle. Conversely, undernutrition remained a concern due to poor diets. Factors influencing nutritional problems included continuation of past habits, acculturation, unfamiliarity with available foods and socio-economic influences. The nutritional concerns encountered by resettled refugees in San Diego are not unique to this group but are aggravated by their past experiences, and abrupt changes to food choices and behavior. Addressing contextual factors of poor food choices may prevent some of the long term health consequences of poor nutrition.

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