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Understanding Alcohol Use in the Karen Refugee Community: A Qualitative Study.

Clements-Green, Caitlin.

A recent study suggests refugee populations may be at greatest risk for alcohol abuse (Ezard, 2011). Concern is growing for the Karen refugee community in St. Paul, Minnesota in regards to alcohol use and misuse. This qualitative study assessed the perspectives of community members and providers related to alcohol use in the Karen community. The study also assessed the quality of alcohol-related educational and treatment opportunities for Karen community members. Ten Karen community members, seven providers of Karen descent, and eight non-Karen providers were interviewed. The interviews were transcribed and coded and themes were identified. Alcohol abuse, lack of educational and treatment resources, and alcohol-related domestic violence were the three themes consistent across participant groups. Karen community members also identified pre-arrival drinking as a reason for alcohol misuse and alcohol-related violent behavior as major themes. Karen providers identified two additional major themes: alcohol-related illegal activity and cultural beliefs as an explanation for alcohol abuse. Additionally, non-Karen providers identified deficiency in identifying alcohol abuse and alcohol-related difficulty resettling. Alcohol abuse was acknowledged as a problem within the Karen refugee community, with few educational resources to prevent and reduce alcohol abuse, as well as few treatment resources to alleviate alcohol abuse. Alcohol-related domestic violence and illegal activity themes demonstrate a need for alcohol abuse education, and also education about the laws pertaining to alcohol use. A culturally appropriate screening tool to screen for alcohol abuse is needed, in addition to culturally appropriate and language appropriate education and treatment opportunities.

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Funded by a Communiversity Personnel Grant from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.
27 pp.
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