"I try the one that they say is good." - factors influencing choice of health care provider and pathways to diabetes care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Flora Haderer, Emilie Venables, Josefien van Olmen, Miriam Orcutt, Michella Ghassibe-Sabbagh, Wilma van den Boogaard

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BACKGROUND: Navigating health systems in host countries can be a challenge for refugees, particularly in a multi-provider system such as Lebanon. Syrian refugees in Lebanon face a high burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including diabetes mellitus. Evidence on how refugees navigate the health system is essential to improve provision of NCD services. We conducted a qualitative study amongst Syrian diabetes patients visiting Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinics in one urban and one rural setting in Lebanon to explore factors influencing choice of and pathways to diabetes care.

METHODS: In-depth interviews were conducted with male and female adult participants with DM type 1 or type 2 who were receiving treatment at MSF clinics. Participants were recruited using convenience sampling. Interviews were conducted in Arabic and directly transcribed and translated into English. Data were coded in NVivo and analyzed using an inductive thematic approach.

RESULTS: A total of 29 in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 men and 16 women. Knowledge and understanding of diabetes management differed among participants. Syrian refugees in Lebanon gathered information about health services for diabetes largely from social networks of family and peers rather than through formal means. Pathways to care included different combinations of providers such as clinics, pharmacists and informal providers.

CONCLUSIONS: Syrian refugees with diabetes in Lebanon face considerable challenges in navigating the health care system due to their vulnerable status and limited knowledge of the host country systems. To ensure access to care for diabetes, efforts need to be made to support patients' orientation in the Lebanese health system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number45
JournalConflict and Health
Issue number1
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Refugees
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Health seeking behavior
  • Health service delivery
  • Health systems
  • Humanitarian response
  • Lebanon


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