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Global Health collaborator SPOTLIGHT: Mitra Naseh, PhD

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

Tonya Edmond, far left, Fred Ssewamala, Naseh, and Proscovia Nabunya, far right, pose for a photo before the May 15 Washington University in St. Louis commencement ceremony

Global Health Center collaborator, Mitra Naseh, PhD, is an assistant professor and research director of the Initiative on Social Work and Forced Migration at WashU’s Brown School. As an early-career investigator, her work centers on enhancing the health and integration of refugees. Funded by the Russell Sage Foundation, her current research project examines the multi-dimensional aspects of economic integration among newly resettled Afghan refugees. We caught up with Naseh and talked about her latest research in this month’s Global Health Collaborator SPOTLIGHT.

Tell us about your recent research project:

My research team and I are in the process of designing a measurement tool for the study. This tool is being adapted from the findings of a scoping review that records how different aspects of economic integration among refugees and immigrants are measured by various U.S. researchers. The designed measurement tool will be refined through a participatory process involving refugees and community partners and then pilot tested with a sample of 200 Afghan refugees based in St. Louis.

Talk about the issue that facilitated your study:

According to estimates, by the end of 2023, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide will rise to 117 million people, driven partly by the protracted conflicts in multiple countries including Afghanistan and the recent war in Ukraine.

By the end of 2023, this means that one in every 69 human beings will live as a refugee, asylum seeker, stateless person, or internally displaced person.

Mitra Naseh, Director of the Initiative on Social Work and Forced Migration

The U.S. is among the leaders in refugee resettlement and Missouri has recently rejoined the leading U.S. states that are currently resettling refugees. In 2022, the country committed to resettling up to 125,000 refugees, mainly Afghans and Missouri has welcomed over 2,000 Afghans since October 2022. Afghans are currently the second largest refugee group in Missouri, and their population is expected to grow.

“The findings of my study on the economic integration of Afghans will serve as pilot data to inform the design of an economic empowerment intervention aimed at fostering the well-being of refugees in the U.S. and globally,” Naseh says. “This includes an emphasis on health and the successful integration of refugees into their new communities.”

In what ways have you engaged with the Global Health Center and how does this engagement benefit your work?

I participate as part of the Global Health Center Early-Stage Investigators group, which meets monthly to present research and receive feedback. I also presented my work at the 9th Annual Global Health Conference.

The work that I presented at the conference was based on my recently funded pilot study by the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, WashU’s Global Health Center, and WashU Here & Next. The goal of this study is to develop a protocol for the virtual delivery of culturally adapted cognitive behavioral therapy plus problem management (CA-CBT+). The developed protocol will allow the delivery of the CA-CBT+ intervention by trained counselors based in the Global North to refugees in the Global South.

Designing and conducting global research have unique challenges and it has been helpful for me to learn from my peers conducting similar research and get feedback from Global Health Center mentors about how to mitigate challenges and use available opportunities. The center has also been helpful in connecting me with other global researchers at WashU and I am looking forward to partnering with them on future projects.

Mitra Naseh